Beating the Holiday Blues

Sometimes the holiday season can be less than jolly and joyful. The holidays can create intense feelings of sadness and stress. The reasons are numerous, but can include having to reflect on holidays past, feeling lonely or missing someone unavailable or no longer living, or just being anxious and worried about managing everything that the holiday time entails. Some find themselves absolutely exhausted by the holidays and cannot seem to really enjoy the season. Watching commercials and TV shows that show people in the perfect clothes, at the perfect holiday parties, getting the perfect holiday gift in a perfectly decorated home may create the worst in holiday expectations. Who can achieve that? So, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and hopelessness may take over. The holidays can also be a time of personal reflections and some may feel that they have failed when not all of their planned goals were met.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people living with an existing mental illness say that the holidays exacerbated feelings of depression and sadness; making the holidays a not-so-festive time of the year. The intensity and the length of the holiday blues depends on support, the ability to be mindful of the positive aspects of the holiday, and good coping strategies.

If you want to be on alert for signs that the holiday may be causing the blues, look for these kinds of clues:

  1. Isolating or avoiding get-togethers.
  2. Over-eating or not enjoying the holiday treats and meals.
  3. Feeling guilty that you couldn’t do more.
  4. Constant feelings of anxiety.
  5. Expressing negative feelings through arguments.
  6. Not looking forward to things.
  7. Feeling unable to focus on things that need to get done.
  8. Increased use of substances.

If these feelings persist past the holidays or thoughts of suicide occur, get help immediately. Stay alert to children who may be feeling blue around the holiday as well. It is not just adults who can feel sad around holiday-time. Connecting with a therapist during the holidays may be valuable to help smooth over the rough spots and help navigate through the bustle of the holidays.

Here are some things you can do on your own to make the holidays better and more manageable:

  1. Be careful with drinking. Be moderate in your choices and consider why you are drinking.
  2. Find people you want to spend time with and plan for other parties. Say no if you are becoming overwhelmed by invitations, but avoid isolation.
  3. Volunteer to help others.
  4. Do something you really enjoy doing. Do it for you!
  5. Nobody’s perfect. Do what you can and enjoy!
  6. Don’t let the idea that it is holiday-time hijack you. Sometimes you need to just have a regular day with no holiday plans. Relax.

If you or a loved one are feeling sad or blue after the holidays have passed, or your feelings are too intense to manage, consider seeking additional help. A free, confidential assessment at Chicago Behavioral Hospital may offer you some ideas about what level of treatment will get you back on track. Our assessment and referral team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 844-756-8600.