How to Overcome the Holiday Blues
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The holiday season is a time of festivities, joy, and warmth. However, for many people, this time of the year can bring about a sense of loneliness or sadness. Whether it’s because of loss, grief, or just feeling completely overwhelmed, the holiday blues can damper this time of happiness for many people.
The Holiday Blues:
The holiday blues are defined as temporary feelings of anxiety, depression, sadness, loneliness, and other negative emotions. These feelings can come for a variety of reasons, however, people who have had or still grapple with mental health conditions may be more susceptible to them. The holiday season tends to cause and magnify different stressors that can trigger mental health conditions. Studies have shown that people with prior mental health conditions are more prone to experiencing more emotional distress during the holiday season. A study from NAMI, the National Association on Mental Illness, found that 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse and 40% “somewhat” worse. The combination of societal expectations and other stressors that come from the holidays tend to greatly impact people with a history of mental illness.
What are some Signs of the Holiday Blues?
Knowing the different signs of the holiday blues is crucial for finding the right support and solution to help individuals affected by it. Changes in sleep patterns, increased irritability, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and a decline in overall energy levels are common indicators. Sometimes, people who are experiencing the holiday blues may begin to attend fewer social activities, struggle with focusing and concentration, or may begin to have changes in their appetite. It’s important to recognize these different signs in yourself and in loved ones so that you can create a comforting setting and provide support during the holiday season
How Can You Overcome the Holiday Blues?
It’s important to know that experiencing a mix of emotions during the holidays is normal. The pressure to be constantly cheerful can exacerbate feelings of isolation. By allowing yourself the grace to experience a range of emotions, you can begin the process of understanding and addressing the root causes of your feelings. Here are some of the best ways to overcome the holiday blues:
- Prioritize Self-Care:
Incorporating self-care into your holiday routine is crucial for maintaining mental well-being. Set aside dedicated time each day for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. This could include immersing yourself in a good book, taking a warm bath with soothing scents, or practicing mindfulness and meditation. Establishing consistent self-care rituals can provide a sense of stability amidst the holiday hustle, allowing you to navigate the season with a more centered mindset.
- Set Realistic Expectations:
Instead of succumbing to overwhelming expectations, break down large tasks into smaller, more achievable goals. Communicate openly with your loved ones about your expectations and limitations, fostering a shared understanding. By setting realistic expectations together, you can alleviate unnecessary pressure and create an environment where everyone feels comfortable and supported during the holiday season.
- Connect with Others:
Actively seek out social connections to combat feelings of isolation. Attend local community events, reach out to friends, or consider joining support groups where you can share experiences. In addition to large gatherings, prioritize smaller, intimate interactions that allow for more meaningful connections. Quality time spent with loved ones can foster a sense of belonging and support.
- Create New Traditions:
Rediscover the joy of the season by creating new traditions that align with your current circumstances and preferences. Engage in activities that resonate with your interests, whether it’s volunteering for a cause you care about, exploring new hobbies, or planning a solo retreat. Involving friends and family in the process of establishing these new traditions not only strengthens your bonds but also creates lasting memories.
- Focus on Gratitude:
Cultivating a mindset of gratitude can significantly impact your outlook during the holiday season. Start a gratitude journal where you regularly jot down things you are thankful for, fostering a positive perspective. Extend your gratitude to others by sending thoughtful notes or messages, spreading kindness, and reinforcing the spirit of the season.
- Seek Professional Help:
If the holiday blues persist and significantly impact your well-being, seeking professional help is a proactive step toward healing. Schedule a consultation with a mental health professional to discuss your feelings and challenges. They can offer personalized guidance and therapeutic interventions tailored to address specific concerns. Consider exploring online or telehealth options for added convenience and accessibility.
- Engage in Physical Activity:
Incorporating physical activity into your routine is a powerful tool for combating the holiday blues. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s going for a walk, participating in a dance class, or practicing yoga. Regular exercise releases endorphins, which can positively impact your mood and overall mental health. Invite friends or family members to join you in these activities, turning it into a shared experience that promotes both physical and emotional well-being.
After the holiday season concludes, some individuals may find themselves grappling with post-holiday blues. Those who were unable to be with family or friends during the holidays might feel a lingering sadness, missing the warmth and joy that come with shared celebrations. The quieter and less eventful part of the year that follows can further add to a more subdued mood. It’s important to recognize and validate these feelings, offering support and understanding to those who may be experiencing a post-holiday emotional dip. Engaging in self-care, maintaining connections, and finding small moments of joy can help navigate this transitional phase and promote a more positive outlook.
Overcoming the holiday blues is a tough journey that involves self-reflection, connection with others, and a commitment to prioritizing mental health. It’s important to recognize the different signs and causes of holiday blues so that you’ll be ready in case a loved one needs your support, or even acknowledge that you may need support. Remember, it’s okay to embrace the holidays in a way that feels authentic to you.
Kendra Cherry, Mse. (2022, December 12). How to cope with the holiday blues. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/holiday-blues-4771716
Mahoney, B. (2021, September 29). Seasonal affective disorder, holiday anxiety and the holiday blues. Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program. https://discoverymood.com/blog/seasonal-affective-disorder-holiday-anxiety-holiday-blues/
Mbuthia, S. (2023, November 13). Holiday blues: Managing your mental health during the holidays. TrueCare. https://truecare.org/blog/holiday-blues-managing-your-mental-health-during-the-holidays/
Press releases. NAMI. (n.d.). https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2014/Mental-health-and-the-holiday-blues#:~:text=%E2%80%94High%20expectations%2C%20loneliness%20and%20stress,clinical%20anxiety%20and%2For%20depression.
Purdie, J. (2019, December 13). 9 ways to beat the holiday blues. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/holiday-blues#management
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