Holiday Stress vs. Holiday Blues: What You Can Do to Prevent Them

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year filled with joy and family gatherings. For many people, however, the time that leads up to the holiday celebrations can be a big cause of stress and blues.

According to the American Psychological Association, roughly 50-70 percent of people report feeling stressed by either lack of time, lack of money or pressure to get or give gifts during the holiday season. Women especially feel the crunch of the holidays because they take on the brunt of the workload. Not only are they doing the cleaning, cooking and shopping, but they’re likely managing the party planning too.

When stress joins hands with disappointment, sadness, or frustration, it can lead to the holiday blues. There aren’t stats for how many people get the blues for Christmas or Hanukkah, but psychologists say it’s common.

Preventing Stress During the Holidays

Once stress and the blues take hold, it’s hard to get them under control. So being proactive to prevent them from happening is important.

  • Take Care of Yourself. In a season filled with finding the perfect presents and planning family parties, don’t forget to take care of yourself. When you feel better, your attitude will show it. Make sure you’re sleeping enough, getting in some form of exercise daily, and eating healthy – it’s okay to indulge a little in your favorite foods, just don’t go overboard.
  • Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations. The sooner you can accept that everything won’t be perfect, the happier you’ll be. Remember what the holidays are about – spending time with the people you love.
  • Recognize What Triggers Your Stress. Nostalgia, money demands, lack of sleep, advertisements, too much coffee and/or sugar are examples of common triggers. Knowing what’s causing you to feel stressed can help you change it or not stress over it so much.
  • Take a Deep Breath and Relax. Remember, you’re only one person – you can’t do it all. Find time for things you enjoy or that relax you: read a book, get a massage, exercise. Doing things you enjoy can make you feel refreshed and re-energized.
  • Develop a Plan. Make a budget, create lists, assign tasks for family members, and stick to the plan. The more prepared you are the less you’ll have to scramble and over-extend yourself.

Preventing the Blues During the Holidays

The holiday season can remind us of people, places, and times that we miss. If this is true for you, trying some of the things below can help you avoid feeling blue.

  • Don’t Beat Yourself Up If You Don’t Feel Merry All the Time. It’s normal to be reflective and, sometimes, sad or lonely. But if you’re overwhelmed by your feelings, talk to someone who will listen or consider getting help.
  • Make Your Own Traditions If the Old Ones Aren’t Working. This is especially important if you’ve lost loved ones, moved, or other circumstances have changed. There are no rules to the holidays, just the ones we are used to.
  • Nurture Your Relationships. It’s easy to feel isolated during the season of festivities. Concentrate on people, not things. Reach out to old and new friends. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger, you may be surprised how many people share your feelings.
  • Reflect on the Positive. Write a gratitude letter or name the things that you’re grateful for each day. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in what we don’t have and forget about all that we do.
  • Help Someone Else. Volunteering to help people is a great way to give the holiday gift of love – and to receive great satisfaction.

For most people, holiday related stress and blues go away once the holidays are over. If your feelings of being stressed or down linger, if they are very bad, or if you’ve tried these recommendations and they don’t help, you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder or symptoms of depression that aren’t connected with the holidays.

Talking with your doctor or a mental health professional can help you better understand what you’re feeling.

Meet the Author

Laura Oliver has been employed in administration at Aurora Behavioral Health Services since 2002, and has worked in mental health and substance abuse clinics for over 20 years.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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