7 Tips to Survive the Holiday Blues - Real Medical Help

7 Tips to Survive the Holiday Blues

For most, the holiday season (November and December in many faiths and cultures) is something happily anticipated, accomplished, and filled with happy memories.  For a great many, it means the return of the holiday blues.

Feelings of sadness, loneliness, or anxiety can be crippling.  The fact that other people tend to be more excited, cheerful, and social this time of year can also lead to feelings of isolation.

Signs of the Holiday Blues

  • Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Headaches or unknown aches and pains
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Irritability, frustration, or anxiety
  • Binge eating
  • Excessive alcohol consumption1

The period known for “holiday cheer” is also when seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is at its worst.  If you live in a place where the skies are often gray and cloudy, you’re probably familiar with how gloomy weather can make humans (and animals) feel tired, unmotivated, or a little down.

According to the American Academy of Physicians, SAD affects between 4-6% of American adults severely and another 10-20% mildly.  Those who live in northern states are 7 times more likely to feel the effects of seasonal depression.2

Symptoms for SAD range from mild to severe and shouldn’t be ignored.  Left untreated, holiday blues or seasonal affective disorder can lead to major depression.

Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Such feelings last most of each day, almost every day
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities that once brought you pleasure
  • Decreased energy levels, sluggishness, listlessness
  • Irritability, frustration, or anxiety
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Poor concentration
  • Thoughts of death or suicide3

Many people feel “down” sometimes but if these feelings don’t ease or they begin to get worse, it’s critical you talk to a friend, loved one, or physician.  You don’t have to go through it alone.

The holiday blues can worsen seasonal affective disorder and the reverse is also true.

What Triggers the Holiday Blues?

During the hustle and bustle at the end of every year, those who relish the holiday season might not understand what it’s like for friends, family, co-workers, or neighbors who are struggling.

Many situations can trigger general feelings of depression, anxiety, inadequacy, or loneliness during the holiday season and it’s a lot more common than you might think.

  • Stress due to increased traffic on the roads and in stores
  • Setting (or striving to meet) unrealistic expectations
  • Inability to find time to be alone
  • Feeling bombarded with “the holidays” no matter where you turn
  • Financial stress about the cost of celebrations on top of normal expenses
  • Committing more time than you have to attend work, school, or family functions
  • Not having friends or family with you
  • Dealing with toxic friends or family out of obligation
  • Less exercise, sleep, and good dietary habits
  • Current trauma or loss (death of a loved one, divorce, accident, or illness)
  • Past experiences of trauma or loss4

As with any form of depression or anxiety, there are several things you can do to decrease the impact of your personal triggers and ease your overall symptoms.  It takes a bit of planning but it might go a long way to easing your holiday blues (and keep them from returning next year)

If you suffer from one, the other, or both, here are a few tips to help you make it into the New Year feeling rested, determined, and in control

7 Tips to Survive & Thrive During the Holidays

  1. You need light and exercise. With the time change, poor weather, and too many tasks on your to-do list, it’s easy to overlook the importance of exercise and sunlight. Take every opportunity to move around and if the clouds clear, get outside and soak it up! If you can’t get outside or the weather is just too awful, brighten up your indoor space as much as you can and exercise in your living room. Yoga, dancing, or even simple stretching will make a huge difference.
  2. Sleep is still critical.  You can’t neglect your sleep even if you have twenty people staying at your house for the holidays.  Maintain good sleep habits as much as you can. Guilt or obligation are not reasons to skip sleep and your tasks will still be there after a good night’s rest.  Consider taking melatonin temporarily to get your schedule back on track but don’t try to survive on less than seven hours a night (eight is best).
  3. Be willing to say no (and mean it). There are only so many hours in each day. During the holiday season, things like child care, housework, bill paying, pet care, and jobs are on-going. The holidays simply add new stuff to your (likely already full) routine. Plan ahead, determine your priorities, and leave yourself some wiggle room. When asked to do more than you can comfortably accomplish (without a breakdown), say no. You’re allowed to do so.
  4. Make a strategic plan of battle. Lack of planning is probably one of the quickest roads to suffering from the holiday blues. As early as you can, outline your plan. Which holiday tasks are you responsible for completing? When do you need to shop for food, gifts, and accessories? How many holiday parties or events are you committed to? Write it all down, set budgets, create phone reminders, and follow your plan. Don’t commit to anything without consulting it (and again, don’t be afraid to say no).
  5. Limit the involvement of toxic people. A lot us have that one family member, neighbor, friend, or co-worker who always seems to ruin the festivities for everyone. Ridding your life of toxic people isn’t always possible (especially during the holidays) but you can limit how much time and energy negative personalities get from you. Keep their window of chaos as narrow as possible. Your mental health is more important than keeping up appearances.
  6. Find helpers and delegate where possible.  No matter what movies and television have tried to convince you of, creating a magical holiday season is not solely the responsibility of one person.  Historically, this overwhelming job has fallen to the wife or mother in a family. Women are statistically more likely than men to experience the holiday blues as well as seasonal affective disorder.  If you’re providing holiday cheer for a group – make them pitch in.  You might be surprised at what you can put in someone else’s hands (confidently) and still have the celebration you want.
  7. Take time for yourself when you need it.  As part of your holiday battle plan, make sure you schedule in time here and there for you.  Whether it’s sitting at a coffee shop alone, taking a soak, getting a massage, reading a book in bed, or simply taking a walk by yourself to clear your head – you must remember that the holiday season is temporary.  Your health and wellness are not. You’re a priority – before, during, and after the food is eaten, gifts unwrapped, and decorations put away.

If you spend most holidays alone, consider volunteering at a homeless shelter, hospital, or animal rescue. Studies have shown that kindness and gratitude greatly benefit the mental and emotional outlook of those suffering from depression.5

Whether you’re celebrating the season alone, with others, or not at all – the holiday blues can still affect you. Keep your diet clean, limit alcohol intake, and do what you can to get out of your own head and interact with others.

Again, if your symptoms linger or worsen, reach out.  You’re not alone.


1MedicineNet: Holiday Depression, Anxiety, and Stress
2American Academy of Physicians: Seasonal Affective Disorder
3Mayo Clinic: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
4UC Davis Health: Beat the holiday blues - and know when they're something major
5UC Berkeley – Greater Good Magazine: Can’t Get Therapy? Try Gratitude and Kindness

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

testing testing