For many, the holiday season is a happy time associated with family and friends, good food and celebration. But for others, the holidays are marked with feelings of anxiety and depression, commonly referred to as the Holiday Blues.
The Holiday Blues are defined as temporary feelings of anxiety or depression during the holidays, and though they differ from clinical anxiety or depression, they should still be taken seriously as they can lead to long-term mental health conditions. In a NAMI survey, it showed that 64 percent of people are affected by the Holiday Blues and 24 percent say they are affected a lot.
There are a number of seasonal factors that contribute to these feelings including less sunlight, changes in diet and routine, increases in alcohol consumption, extra stress from hosting family and friends or the inability to be with family and friends.
Others can be triggered by sentimental memories resulting in feelings of loneliness, sadness, fatigue, tension and a sense of loss.
During this time, it is important for everyone to take care of themselves, but it is especially important for those who already suffer from anxiety or depression on a regular basis.
Take Some Alone Time — But Not Too Much
When you’re feeling down, it’s common to want to avoid the effort of interacting with others and be by yourself — especially when there is a constant stream of holiday parties to attend.
While it is okay and healthy to skip some gatherings to take time for yourself, you should not retreat into complete solitude as that can make your feelings of anxiety or depression worse. Humans by nature are social creatures and need to have some sense of community to add to their self-worth — even when they don’t feel like it.
If you cannot handle the stress of attending a holiday party, invite some close friends or family members over instead, or make a phone call and have a quick conversation. That way, you are still reaching out and surrounding yourself with supportive loved ones without the commitment of attending or hosting a holiday party that requires small talk and other stress factors.
That said, taking personal time to collect yourself and relax is crucial to maintaining good mental health in hectic times.
Do Something Unrelated to the Holidays
Just because it is the holiday season does not mean you need to spend all your time shopping, baking or preparing gifts and cards to give out.
When holiday activities become too stressful, it is important to take a step back and take some time to do something you truly enjoy.
Instead of spending the weekend in a crowded, stuffy mall, get outside and go for a hike or even just take a walk around the neighborhood. If you have time off from school or work, use it to read the book you’ve been meaning to get to or take a trip.
Whatever you do, just remember that the holidays are only events and do not need to encompass your whole life.
Everything in Moderation
There can be a lot going on between the months of November and January, meaning a lot of parties, food, alcohol and spending. This can cause people to break their normal habits and feel out of control, which leads to increased anxiety and depression.
To maintain a sense of balance, be realistic about what you can and can’t do and set limitations for yourself.
This doesn’t mean you need to abstain from drinking and eating at parties, or that you cannot buy presents for those you care about, but rather that you are doing so in moderation so as not to derail from your regular routine.
The holidays are more enjoyable when you are not stressed about the repercussions of them later.
Take It One Day at a Time
Looking at the holidays as an entire season can make them seem insurmountable, but if you take it one day at a time it is much more digestible.
Making to-do lists each day is a helpful strategy to outline and prioritize a few tasks at a time rather than trying to tackle everything at once. By limiting yourself to a few items a day, you are also able to enjoy what you are doing more, instead of merely trying to get through it.
Above all, it is important to remember that when managed properly, the Holiday Blues are temporary and will pass.