Although the holidays are often depicted in popular culture as a time of cheerful
celebration, this is not the universal experience of the holiday season. In fact, for many individuals, the holidays bring up emotions like sadness, anxiety, depression, grief, loneliness, fatigue, and even anger. What does it mean when the whole world seems to be celebrating, but you find yourself feeling isolated in these emotions?
Well first, you’re not alone. In fact, this experience is so common it has been coined the holiday blues. However, because these
emotions can often feel so contrasting from the experiences depicted in popular culture and
media, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you’re in the midst of holiday blues. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one way to tell if you’re experiencing holiday blues (as opposed to clinical depression or anxiety) is if, at the onset of the holiday season, you find yourself feeling emotions like fatigue, tension, frustration, sadness, a sense of loss, and even loneliness. Just remember, you’re not alone. And when in doubt, try out some of the coping mechanisms listed below.
1) Exercise: Not only is exercise great for your physical health, but it is also great for your mental health by aiding in the release of a chemical called endorphins which have been linked to an improvement in mood. However, during the holidays there is often an increase in travel, being away from home, and overall change in routine which can make it difficult to maintain normal exercise routines. If you find yourself feeling the symptoms of holiday blues, but struggling to find the time for a more intensive workout, remember that exercise can be anything that gets you moving (even a short walk, some jumping jacks, or yoga in the living room).
2) Avoiding Substances: The holidays are known for an increase in substance use (particularly alcohol). However, if you notice yourself experiencing symptoms of the holiday blues, try to take a step away from substances and see if it improves your symptoms.
3) Regular Sleep Schedule: Getting on a regular sleep schedule is a great way to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. However, it is common during the holidays to find difficulty maintaining that sleep schedule. If you find yourself experiencing any symptoms of the holiday blues, try your best to return to a sleep schedule that feels right for you. A great way to do this is by setting reminders on your phone or enlisting the help of your family and friends.
4) Self-Compassion: Self-compassion is an important coping mechanism and it can be utilized both as an active tool and a gentle reminder to yourself. First of all, the holidays can often bring up many emotions for many varied and complex reasons. They can be anything from having a difficult relationship with your family, a difficult relationship with the holidays in general, losing a loved one, or anything beyond this short list. Simply giving yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling can often go a long way. Outside of this, there are many wonderful self-compassion meditations and mantras that can help reinforce this. Below find two popular resources, but feel free to find one that feels right for you because remember, meditations are not “one size fits all”.
5) Lean Into Familiar Self-Care Routines: The holidays can often throw us off balance which can bring up many of the symptoms associated with the holiday blues. If your self-care routine includes any activities that can be accessible from where you are (reading a book, taking a bath) try your best to pick them up and don’t feel guilty for taking some time to indulge and take care of yourself, as this will help give you a sense of routine and stability.
By: Selina Delgado Schultz
Mental Health Counseling Intern
Greenstein, L. (2015, November 19). Tips for managing the holiday blues. NAMI. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/november-2015/tips-for managing-the-holiday-blue.