Do you start feeling down when the holiday season comes around? Feeling the holiday blues or holiday depression is a surprisingly common problem. You are not alone if you feel things like sadness and anxiety caused by what’s supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.”
What are the holiday blues?
As of right now, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not state that the holiday blues is a psychiatric condition. In the past, it has been characterized as a reaction to stress. So many people feel some sort of holiday depression for so many reasons that it’s simply hard for professionals to put a definition to what people are feeling and why.
Some people with no history of depression may find themselves feeling the holiday blues and some people that do have a history of depression find the feeling heightened during the holiday season. The National Alliance on Mental Health Illness (NAMI) states, “respondents reported that the holidays contribute to feeling sad or dissatisfied and 68% financially strained. 66% have experienced have loneliness, 63% too much pressure, and 57% unrealistic expectations. 55% found themselves remembering happier times in the past contrasting with the present, while 50% were unable to be with loved ones.”
Signs and symptoms of holiday depression
The most common sign of the holiday blues is a recurring feeling of sadness during the holiday months. Other symptoms may include:
- Weight changes.
- Changes in appetite.
- Unusual sleep patterns.
- Lack of concentration.
- Feeling unusually tired.
- Not enjoying things or activities you usually enjoy.
- Feelings such as guilt, tension, anxiety, or worthlessness.
It’s important to take note of what you’re feeling and when. If these feelings extend out of the holiday season, make time to talk to a mental health professional.
What causes the holiday blues?
There is a multitude of reasons a person could be feeling holiday depression. The most common causes are:
- A lack of sleep due to busy holiday schedules.
- An increase in eating food or drinking alcoholic beverages due to holiday parties and gatherings.
- Stress caused by financial burdens.
- Isolation or loneliness due to not being able to see loved ones.
- Expectations that have been set too high either by you or others.
The upcoming new year could also make people feel nostalgia for the way things were in the past or feel stressed about unmet goals.
Can it be treated?
Although you cannot be formally diagnosed with the holiday blues, it shouldn’t stop you from talking to someone about what you’re feeling. A set of ears can help you pinpoint what is causing your holiday blues and help you through it. A professional will be able to help you work through causes like lack of sleep and excessive eating or drinking, but a close friend or family member can also help you work through financial difficulties, loneliness, and unrealistic expectations.
What can I do for myself?
You may find the best treatment for the holiday blues is self-treatment. You can self-treat causes of the holiday blues by:
- Limiting food and alcohol.
- Regular exercise.
- Avoid isolation by being with friends, family, or a support group.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed, IT’S OK TO SAY NO.
People may not realize they’re asking too much of you. Tell them when you have too much to handle and need help.
Also, remember to take time for yourself! Read, meditate, take a jog, have a long bath, or find something else that relaxes you and brings you the peace you need to get through the hectic holiday season.
Need more help?
Call or text the NAMI hotline at 1-800-950-6264 if you need to talk.
Dial 988 for the suicide and crisis lifeline if you’re experiencing a mental health emergency.