Christmas Blues: Ways to Beat the Holiday Sadness

Christmas is, undoubtedly, the most festive season of all. However, the financial pressures, societal expectations, and other factors can sometimes manifest into something we refer to as Christmas blues. This short-term mental distress plagues a surprising number of people, even if a glance at social media may indicate otherwise. Don't be alarmed if you don't feel the Christmas cheer — we collected a handful of tips to help you clear this holiday-induced funk.

Key takeaways:

What is the meaning of 'Christmas blues?'

The term 'Christmas blues' is a temporary emotional state that can be characterized by heightened distress during the holiday season. People experiencing this condition will often grapple with many different negative emotions, which can include sadness, loneliness, and an increased level of stress. It is rooted in factors such as family expectations, financial strain, or even past traumas. Christmas blues represent a very specific and emotional response triggered by the festive circumstances taking place at Christmas time.

Is it the same as depression?

Christmas blues and the condition called clinical depression do share some similar symptoms, but they differ in duration and intensity. Christmas blues will usually be temporary and linked to holiday-related stressors, dissipating after Christmas is over. In contrast, full-blown depression involves a persistent and profound feeling of sadness, which affects your daily life for a long period.

It is important to distinguish between the two because depression requires professional help. Understanding these distinctions is an important aspect of providing appropriate support to those experiencing holiday-related stress or clinical depression.

Why do I feel depressed during Christmas?

Busy holiday schedules can be stressful for anyone, but your holiday depression symptoms could be caused by a few different things. For one, the holiday season is prime family time. Holiday celebrations can be especially tough if you’ve lost loved ones.

If you feel your Christmas isn't living up to popular ideas of the season, the expectation for Christmas cheer and happiness can lead to negative thinking or despair. The weather may even increase your Christmas blues. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that is brought on by the shorter winter days.

Increased stress

The ever-so-hectic holidays are full of unexpected stress. For example, gift shopping can be fun, but it can also require extra money.

Prepping for holiday celebrations can also be a major stressor. Parents may feel pressure to deliver on their children’s expectations. If you’re hosting a holiday party, you’ll likely have to consider many aspects of the planning process to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Feeling imperfect

Seeing friends and family post happy Christmas photos can lead to feelings of inadequacy or envy.

Outside of social media, spending time with family and friends you don’t see often can prompt insecurities as well. Younger adults express anxiety about interacting with lesser-known family members during the holidays.

Adults with a history of substance abuse may be worried about drinking too much, and those with insecurities about weight and health tend to feel stress about holiday food.

Feeling lonely

Not having family around during the holidays can lead to sadness and negative thinking, which can greatly cloud your Christmas season.

Sometimes, the one missing out on the holidays is you. Whether dealing with excessive holiday work hours or an inability to travel due to financial strain, it can be hard not to spend Christmas with the ones you love. This is especially true if you have witnessed your family’s celebrations via social media.

Ways to beat the Christmas blues and get happy again

Christmas blues affects everyone differently. Some may experience changes in appetite and sleep patterns and a loss of pleasure in things they used to enjoy. Others may have difficulty concentrating or feel more tired than usual.

Fortunately, no matter how bad your holiday blues may be, there are ways to combat and even mitigate its effects.

Find time for self-care

Exciting holiday plans can be enjoyable, but it’s important not to get overwhelmed.

Find time to relax and do things you enjoy, whether that’s listening to music, reading, watching shows, or spending time with friends.

Make sure to get enough sleep and set clear limits for yourself. Also, try to spend less time on social media.

Have a positive mindset

Many times, unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointments during the holidays. However, you can counter negative thinking with a change in perspective.

It’s important to know your limits, and mindfulness can help with that. Mindfulness is the practice of the presence of the mind, or being fully present.

Give gifts that are free or don't cost much to relieve stress about money. Focus on one or two family members or friends you are excited to see to lower family anxiety.

You can even volunteer at local charities to help those in need.

Watch your diet

How you eat and drink can affect your mood, especially during the holidays. To better manage your Christmas blues, try eating in moderation.

Consider eating vitamin D-rich foods, such as tofu and salmon, or taking a vitamin D supplement. Because there is less sun in the winter, there is less vitamin D in the body, which can make depression more likely.

Regular exercise is a mood booster. Small changes in your everyday routine, like morning stretches or opting for stairs instead of the elevator, can make a big difference.

Finally, try not to drink when you’re feeling down. Alcohol is a depressant, so it can increase those negative feelings.

See a specialist

If your Christmas blues are getting too heavy, you might want to see a specialist. Talking to a therapist about your stress or sadness can help you understand them and find ways to cope with them.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially helpful for the holiday blues because it is known to help people with depression and anxiety, which are two of the main symptoms of the holiday blues.

What are the post-Christmas blues?

Post-Christmas blues refers to a situation where happiness resulting from festivities during the Christmas period turns into disappointment upon transitioning back to normal life. This happens due to experiencing emotional upheaval between being in 'the holiday spirit' and returning back to routine. The symptoms of this are usually fatigue and lethargy, social withdrawal, and a pervading disinterest and lack of motivation for life. This transition can be challenging, and recognizing these emotions, as well as understanding that they are only temporary, is essential to nurture your emotional well-being during this period of adjustment.

Going through the holiday blues when everyone else is celebrating can be difficult. Remember — these feelings are valid but fleeting. Seek assistance from close friends or reliable professionals if you're struggling. You're not alone on the journey toward improved mental well-being; seeking support is a brave step in finding solace.

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