The holiday season is viewed as one of the most cheerful times of the year full of celebrations, parties, and a plethora of other gatherings with friends and family. However, for many of us, the holiday season brings a daunting array of demands that can contribute to an increase in unwelcome feelings such as anxiety, loneliness, sadness, and despair. These feelings are notably worse for those of us with preexisting mental health issues. If you have found yourself with an increase in negative feelings during the holiday season, you have likely experienced what some call the holiday blues. The holiday blues—despite not being an officially recognized mental health condition—can still wreak havoc on your well-being.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the holiday blues are feelings of anxiety or depression during the holidays that can be associated with excess stress, memories, and unrealistic expectations.
Fortunately, with these tips, you can tackle these unwelcome feelings and curb the holiday blues.
Manage your expectations of the holiday season
Nearly everyone has an idealistic vision of how the holiday season will turn out, but when reality fails to live up to this vision, the holiday blues can ensue. Remember that no holiday celebration is genuinely perfect, despite what the over-commercialized holiday advertisements may lead you to think. There might be some unspoken hostility between you and that one guest you reluctantly invited. The expensive ham you are responsible for bringing to dinner might burn beyond saving. Your mother-in-law may dislike the gift you spent hours picking out. Ultimately, there are bound to be a multitude of trials and tribulations when dealing with the demands of the holidays so keep your expectations realistic and make the best of any shortcomings.
During the holiday season, it can be exceptionally easy to indulge a bit too excessively. Alcohol and sweets are more readily available at holiday gatherings and you are all the more likely to overindulge in these when you are stressed out from dispiriting holiday demands. While it is perfectly fine to enjoy your share of alcohol and sweets, overindulgence in such can contribute to the holiday blues by negatively affecting your mood and sleep. To avoid overindulgence, be sure to consume well-balanced meals and maintain physical activity.
Recognize your limits
The holiday season often welcomes countless party invitations and favors for family and friends. Those simple party invitations can very quickly pile up and feel obligatory. Similarly, those small favors for family and friends can grow into time-consuming projects. It is excellent to spread holiday cheer by attending those parties and addressing those small favors, but try not to do so at the expense of your well-being. Recognize your limits and do not be afraid to say “no” to any requests that could later prove to be far too demanding. Your family and friends will be understanding if you cannot tend to every occasion and favor.
Acknowledge your feelings
For many, the holiday season is not a hectic period of rejoicing with friends and family. Rather, it is a time of mourning lost loved ones and grieving over their absence at holiday gatherings. As if wrestling with the feelings of loss wasn’t challenging enough, there is a seemingly heightened pressure to be happy during the holidays, which can induce feelings of guilt and anxiety. Instead of feeling guilt over your sadness, take time to acknowledge it and express it in a healthy way that suits you (e.g., write in a journal, listen to music, focus on a hobby, etc.). Your friends and family will be more than understanding if you need to take time away from holiday gatherings for yourself.
These tips can assist in keeping the holiday blues at bay, but they cannot replace professional help. Our therapists at Pacific CBT are here to help you work through your symptoms of the holiday blues! Contact us today to schedule a free 15-minute video consultation.
“Tips for Managing the Holiday Blues.” NAMI, https://www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/november-2015/tips-for-managing-the-holiday-blues.
About the Author: Christian Wertman currently works as a behavior therapist in the field of applied behavior analysis. Christian received his Bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Francisco State University and has aspirations for a career in clinical psychology.