Holiday blues are real, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, with 64 percent of surveyed Americans saying that they experience holiday blues and 24 percent reporting negative effects related to the holidays.
Feelings of anxiety or depression can grow throughout the holidays as stress and expectations increase – parties, shopping, family gatherings, financial strain. Unpleasant memories associated with the time of year can also creep in, along with a longing for days gone by or missed loved ones.
Holiday blues can include feeling tired, feeling frustration or tension, feeling isolated or lonely, feeling sad or a sense of loss. These feelings are generally temporary, receding once the holidays are behind us. Still, while the feelings are upon us, it helps to have a few simple strategies to cope with holiday blues.
Strategies for coping
The National Alliance for Mental Illness suggests several strategies for reducing stress and maintaining good mental health during the holiday season.
- Recognize your triggers: If you’re feeling mentally or physically off, try to pinpoint what’s making you feel that way, then choose to do something different or take steps to ask for help. Shopping, entertaining, even activities that seem like they should be fun, can drain us. Asking for help might ease some of your stress.
- Don’t try to do too much: For your own mental well-being manage your time by setting boundaries and being realistic. It’s nice to be invited to party after party, but maybe attending just one or two is enough. Decide beforehand how much time to give an activity and then maintain your boundary for your own good.
- Practice self-care: Eating a healthy diet, minimizing alcohol consumption, getting enough sleep, practicing relaxation – all are good self-care tools during the holidays. Also, recognizing when you need time to yourself can go a long way to balance those times when you are around a group of people.
- Exercise daily: Exercise can help off-set calorie consumption; it also is an excellent stress reducer. Consider taking a walk in nature or at a local park if you need a break from a family gathering or if it’s time for some self-care. Or join a yoga class a couple times a week. Yoga will help you to breathe deeply and move mindfully right on into the new year.
- Be grateful: The holidays are a great time to reflect on the past year, including the special people in your life who are there for you, and to say thank you. Writing a gratitude list can provide perspective.
- Help others: If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, volunteering at a local nonprofit is a wonderful act of kindness and provides a connection to your community.
- Seek support: Family, friends, support groups, your mental healthcare provider – whoever is part of your support network, rely on them to help you through the holiday blues.
Again, remember that the holiday blues are generally temporary feelings that ease up once the holidays are behind you. If you continue to feel anxious or depressed beyond the holiday season, consider making an appointment with your behavioral healthcare provider.