Health & Wellness Articles

Dealing with the Holiday Blues

What to Do When You Feel Down During a Cheerful Season

Q: I feel depressed around the holidays every year. How can I enjoy the season and feel happier like everyone else?

A: It's not uncommon to feel a little (or a lot) "blue" during the holidays. Many factors can contribute to this problem, including the stress of the holidays themselves—all the extra shopping and responsibilities, financial stress, house guests or travel, parties and the overdrinking and overeating often associated with them…the list goes on. For many, the holidays (or birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) evoke unpleasant memories or resentments connected to past holidays, or make us especially aware of our own loneliness, dissatisfactions, or other unpleasant feelings.

But often one of the biggest stressors is our expectation that the holidays should be a happy, harmonious and enjoyable time—as if the holidays have some magic ability to change our lives. Or maybe you look at other people who seem to be enjoying themselves a lot more than you are, and you wonder what's wrong with you. Most likely, those other people are looking at you the same way, and wondering why they don't feel as good as you seem to. Most of us keep our unpleasant feelings and thoughts to ourselves, and end up comparing our own "insides" to other people's "outsides." All of this just adds to our holiday blues.

The first step towards finding more enjoyment in the holiday season is to forget all the expectations and put the negative self-analysis on the back burner for a while. Instead, decide who and what is really important to you during the holiday season, and figure out how you can honor those priorities and commitments in a positive way, without stretching yourself too thin.

If you're feeling overly stressed by all the demands on your time or budget, it's OK to say no to a few invitations or to just call some relatives instead of inviting them over to dinner or sending presents. At the other end of the spectrum, if you're feeling lonely or disconnected, volunteer to help serve dinner at your local homeless shelter or church, or get involved in some community service project that appeals to you. It's very hard to feel blue when you're doing something like that.

And don't forget to include yourself on your list of people who need special attention during the holidays. Make sure you save enough time for you to do the things that make you feel good, like healthy eating and exercise, whatever you do for relaxation and your spiritual practices.


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Member Comments

    Thanks for this article! I've been trying to give myself more space to think about how I'm feeling around holiday time in an effort to overcome the emotional eating that hits then. I'm sure some of the mid-winter reaction also involves the limited daylight for us in the north. I'm trying to accept my increased need for rest during the dark season, but it's always hard to give myself credit for something that society doesn't value. Anyway, I recognize that without enough rest I'm not a person that even I want to be around :) Thanks to Spark People, these days rest means much more than curling up on the sofa but includes, for example, unplugging myself with a relaxed walk just enjoying my surroundings and not worrying about speed, calorie burn, or what's next on the endless to-do list.
  • I find that the more well I am, the more I like the holidays. If I'm not feeling well, I can't really enjoy myself, no matter how hard I try. I just like to stay home then, you know, not go out to family dinners or anything.
  • Trying to stay positive this year but the pain is bringing me down again....I am beginning to not like the holidays and I am not happy with myself for feeling that's a yo-yo time of year
  • Excellent article, really made me think. Now, my goal for this year and beyond, is to make my insides feel as happy as the outside smile that I show everyone else.

About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.
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