The holidays are often described as “magical” and the “most wonderful time of the year.” But what if you are dealing with the holiday blues more than cheer? You’re not alone. The numbers show many of us are feeling less-than-relaxed during this time of year.
Holiday Stress Statistics
A survey conducted by Healthline showed 63 percent of participants felt either somewhat or very stressed during the holiday season. And it spanned all ages, too—the stress population included 65 percent of those from generation X, 61 percent of millennials, and 62 percent of baby boomers.
What Causes the Holiday Blues?
There are a number of factors that can make us feel stressed or down during the holidays. Those can include:
- Shorter days and less sunlight
- Being far from friends or family
- Financial stress
- Changes in dietary habits, such as increased sugar and alcohol consumption
- Food-related stress
- Family tension
- Pre-existing mood disorders that get worse
Memories of days gone by or unrealistic expectations about what will happen can also lead to holiday blues. The reasons can be complex and varied for each person.
Ways to Beat the Holiday Blues
Thankfully, there are some things you can do to combat the stress and low feelings you might experience during the holidays.
1. Keep Things Simple
Commercialization is huge during the holiday season. There’s a lot of pressure to go big with gifts, parties, holiday dinners and more. But this can put a lot of pressure on you and, ultimately, take you away from the parts of the holidays that really matter.
Set the intention to do less and celebrate more simply this year:
- Focus more on love and connections rather than “stuff.”
- Consider a white elephant gift exchange with friends or family rather than individual gifts for everyone.
- Keep your holiday dinners simpler by having everyone contribute a dish or ordering pre-made side dishes or desserts.
- Make a to-do list of things you need to get done before the holidays to reduce overwhelm. If necessary, break up each to-do item into tiny steps.
- Limit time with people who drain you. If you need to leave a party or gathering early for your own sanity, do it.
- Set a budget for activities and gifts – and stick to it! Don’t let financial strain happen to you just for the sake of the holidays.
2. Maintain Routines as Much as Possible
If holiday time leaves you feeling down, it can help to have a structured schedule to keep your mind busy. Try to maintain much of your regular routine so you aren’t overwhelmed with lots of changes. Filling your calendar with events you enjoy can also help you move through the holiday season in a merrier state.
3. Prioritize Sleep, Movement, and Nutrition
Healthy habits can be especially hard when you’re struggling with your mental health. Don’t be hard on yourself, but find little ways to care for your body during this time:
- Go to bed early, when you can.
- Take a short walk while listening to music, or do some light stretching.
- Keep some healthy food around for quick, satisfying meals you can make.
- Enjoy holiday food while leaving room for nutritious options like fruits, vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, and fiber. Too much “junk food” can make you feel worse.
Getting some exercise outside also exposes you to more sunlight. A lack of sunlight during the winter months greatly affects some people’s moods. Try to get at least 20 minutes of sunlight each day.
4. Practice Self-Compassion
You might judge yourself for not feeling how you think you should about the holidays. But there is no reason to feel guilty; it’s simply how you feel, and that’s okay.
Practice self-compassion. Think of yourself as your own kind and unconditional friend. How can you comfort and support yourself during this difficult time?
5. Watch the Alcohol
Drinks are often a big part of holiday celebrations. But an excess of alcohol can affect moods and well-being.
It’s probably best to limit your intake if it makes your negative feelings worse. Instead, focus on staying hydrated with drinks like water or unsweetened tea.
6. Help Someone Else
A lot of the time, helping others is good for us when we’re experiencing something like holiday blues. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting a nursing home, or doing something else to help the less fortunate.
Even when we love the holidays and want to enjoy them, they can feel lonely, overwhelming, or downright sad. Take care of yourself, let yourself feel the feelings, and don’t be afraid to reach out for support from those you trust.