Holiday Depression and Stress Explained

Although the holidays are supposed to be a time full of joy, good cheer and optimistic hopes for a new year, many people experience additional stress or seasonal “blues”. Thanksgiving dinner dishes are still being cleared off the table when some of us start thinking about everything that needs to be done in the upcoming weeks.

The season can be a stressful time as we try to meet all of our obligations. Things like financial stress, over-commercialization, being away from loved ones, or lack of time to prepare to make it easy to feel out-of-sync with holiday crowd.

In order to help you cope with some the stress duing the holidays here is a list of things to remember.

WHhat Causes Holiday Blues?

Many factors can cause the “holiday blues”: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends. The demands of shopping, parties, family reunions, and house guests also contribute to feelings of tension.

People who do not become depressed may develop other stress responses, such as: headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating, and difficulty sleeping.

Even more people experience post-holiday let down after January first. This can result from disappointments during the preceding months compounded with the excess fatigue and stress.

Coping with stress during the Holidays

Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities.

Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don’t put the entire focus on just one day (i.e. Thanksgiving Day). Rember that it’s a season of holiday sentiment, and activities can be spread out to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.

Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.

Leave “yesteryear” in the past and toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”

Do something for somone else. Try volunteering some your time to help others.

Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping or making a snowperson with children.

Be aware of excessive drinking. It will only increase your feelings of stress.

Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.

Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends, or connect with someone you haven’t heard from in while.

Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.
Always remember your rights during the holiday season!

Holiday Bill of Rights

You have the right to…

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Feel mixed up emotions around the holidays.
  • Spend time alone thinking, reflecting and relaxing.
  • Say “no” to party invitations.
  • Ask for help and support from family, friends and community service agencies
  • Say “no” to alcohol, drugs…and seconds on dessert.
  • NOT to ride with a drunk driver, to take their keys away and to call a taxi for them.
  • Give gifts that are within your holiday budget.
  • Smile at angry sales people and/or rude drivers and give them a peace of your mind.
  • Enjoy your holiday the way you want.

Can Environment Be A Factor?

Recent studies show that some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which results from fewer hours of sunlight as the days grow shorter during the winter months.

Phototherapy, a treatment involving a few hours of exposure to intense light, is effective in relieving depressive symptoms in patients with SAD.

Other studies on the benefits of phototherapy found that exposure to early morning sunlight was effective in relieving seasonal depression.

Recent findings, however, suggest that patients respond equally well to phototherapy whether it is scheduled in the early afternoon.

This has practical applications for antidepressant treatment since it allows the use of phototherapy in the workplace as well as the home.

Source & More Info: MHA Wisconsin and



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