Not everyone shares in the celebration
and joy associated with the holidays. Some people
feel stressed and unhappy during the holidays.
The feeling is called the "holiday blues,"
and it is a fairly common condition often hidden
behind forced smiles. Excessive drinking and
eating are ways some people react to the holiday
blues. They may have difficulty sleeping and
physical complaints. If you experience reactions
like these during the holidays, you are not
alone. Below are some things that cause the
holiday blues and ways to cope with them.
Causes the Holiday Blues?
of disappointing others. Many people are afraid
of disappointing their loved ones during the
holidays. They may spend more than they can
afford, or feel that they have let someone down.
gifts to improve relationships. Giving someone
a nice present will not necessarily strengthen
a friendship or romantic relationship. When
your gifts don't produce the reactions you had
hoped for, you may feel let down.
reminders. If someone important to you passed
away or left you during a past holiday season,
you may become emotional as the anniversary
memories. For some families, the holidays are
times of chaos and confusion. This is especially
true in families where people have substance
abuse problems or stressful ways of relating
to each other. Even though things may be better
now, it is sometimes difficult to forget when
past holidays were ruined by substance abuse
or family tension.
could be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD),
which results from fewer hours of sunlight as
the days grow shorter during the winter months.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
for Dealing with the Holiday Blues
The good news is that the holiday blues are
usually temporary. Consider these ideas to help
make this year's holidays more enjoyable and
realistic. Don't expect the holiday season to
solve all problems. The forced cheerfulness
of the holiday season cannot erase sadness or
connected. You may want to withdraw and stay
by yourself. Make an effort to spend time with
friends. Write or call those you care about
and recall good times you've shared in the past.
Many churches and community centers offer activities
to help people cope with the holiday blues.
less alcohol. Even though drinking alcohol gives
you a temporary feeling of well-being, it is
a depressant and cannot make anything better.
yourself permission not to feel cheerful. Accept
how you are feeling. If you have recently experienced
a loss, you cannot expect yourself to put on
a happy face. Tell others how you are feeling
and what you need.
a spending limit and stick to it. Look for holiday
activities that are free, such as looking at
holiday decorations, window-shopping or attending
yourself special care. Schedule times to relax
and pamper yourself. Take a warm bath or spend
an evening with a good book.
limits and priorities. Be realistic about what
you will be able to accomplish. Prepare a to-do
list to help you arrange your priorities. Find
those things that are important to you and do
your time. If you are troubled because you won't
be seeing your family, volunteer to work at
a hospital or food bank. Volunteering can help
raise your morale by turning your focus to people
who are less fortunate than you are.
some exercise. Exercise has a positive impact
on depression because it boosts serotonin levels.
Try to get some type of exercise at least twice
For some people, holiday blues continue into
the new year. This is often caused by leftover
feelings of disillusionment during the holiday
season and being physically exhausted. The blues
also happen for some people because the start
of a new year is a time of reflection. These
reflections commonly focus on problems of the
past rather than the positive happenings of
It More Than Just the Holiday Blues?
Clinical depression is more than just feeling
sad for a few weeks. The symptoms generally
include changes in appetite and sleep patterns,
having less interest in daily activities, difficulty
concentrating and a general feeling of hopelessness.
requires professional treatment. If you are
concerned that a friend or relative may be suffering
from more than just holiday blues, you should
express your concerns. If the person expresses
thoughts of worthlessness or suicide, it is
important to seek the help of a qualified mental
• Anne Arundel County Department of
Health Adolescent and Family Services, 410-222-6785
• Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency
Crisis Warmline, 410-768-5522
• Anne Arundel County Network of Care:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
• American Counseling Association: Are
You Being Affected By "Holiday Depression"?
• American Psychological Association:
• Children and Holiday Stress
• Additional Resources for Help (PDF)