The Most Stressful Time of the Year: How to Cope with Holiday Blues
- Category: Mental Health
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The holiday season can be a festive time filled with joy – but it can also cause excessive stress, anxiety, loneliness, exhaustion, and feelings of sadness. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves this time of year, and it’s important to take a step back and focus on self-care when the stress becomes too much to handle. Those with a prior mental health condition may also be more likely to experience holiday depression.
Causes of the Holiday Blues
- Money worries: The holiday season creates financial demands you may not be equipped to handle. Struggling to afford gifts or spending extra cash on parties creates an added burden financially and can cause you to fall behind on bills or rack up credit card debt. Money troubles are one of the most common causes of stress and can wreak havoc on your peace of mind.
- Physical exhaustion: Jam-packed holiday schedules, shopping trips to crowded malls, party planning, and lack of sleep can run you down and make you more susceptible to stress and low moods.
- Overindulgence in food and alcohol: Many people eat more unhealthy foods or drink more alcohol during holiday season festivities, which can make the effects of the holiday blues more intense.
- Isolation and feeling lonely: If you are far from friends or family or have no one to spend the holidays with, you may experience feelings of loneliness. This is especially difficult to ignore when there are reminders everywhere of the expectation to spend the holidays with loved ones.
- Unrealistic expectations for the holidays: Having impossibly high expectations for the holiday season may lead to sadness when reality fails to meet your ideal. The over commercialization of the holidays contributes to the pressure to feel extra joyful this time of year. You may feel down if you don’t have a family to spend it with or if your loved ones disappoint you by canceling plans.
How to Manage Symptoms of the Holiday Blues
If you find yourself feeling down during this time of year, there are many ways to make the holiday season less stressful and more enjoyable.
Alcohol is a depressant, so drinking even a small amount can exacerbate feelings of depression. Be sure to limit your consumption of alcohol and avoid drinking as a way to avoid low moods or ease anxiety. Though holiday parties definitely make it easier to imbibe more frequently this time of year, it’s important to remember that drinking will likely only make you feel worse.
Take Time for Self-Care
One of the best ways to alleviate stress is to take time out for yourself. No matter how busy your holiday schedule is, be sure to pencil in some time to relax and read, exercise, take a bath, or just enjoy the peace and quiet. Self-care is always important but even more so during the hectic and stressful holiday season.
Exercising can seem daunting when you are feeling down, but engaging in regular physical activity of some kind plays a pivotal role in both preventing and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. The endorphins released during a workout or even an energetic walk around your neighborhood help boost mood and combat the holiday blues.
Social isolation is a common cause of depression. If you are away from your family and friends during the holidays, avoiding isolation can be even more challenging. If you have loved ones that aren’t nearby, take time to call them when you feel lonely. If you don’t have a support system to turn to, trying to reach out and make new connections can help. Join a local club, volunteer for a cause important to you, or even seek out professional counseling to have someone to talk to.
Don’t Take On Too Much
The holidays are a busy time filled with social obligations, festive parties, get-togethers, and endless tasks, such as decorating, cooking, cleaning, and shopping. You may feel pressured to accept every invitation, host every holiday, or give your friends and family your time and resources to assist with their own holiday planning. Avoid overcommitting, know your limits, and make sure you don’t take on more than your schedule – and your stress level – can handle.
Talk to a Professional
If you are struggling with your mental health during the holidays or any time of year, a professional can help. The compassionate physicians and therapists at our LiveWell Counseling center assess and treat individuals with depression, anxiety, and a variety of other conditions. One-on-one counseling sessions can help you develop problem-solving strategies, learn coping mechanisms, and change behaviors to manage your symptoms effectively.To learn more about LiveWell Counseling at Christian Health, please call (201) 848-5500 or visit the LiveWell Counseling page.