For many, the holiday period from Thanksgiving through New Year’s is not enjoyed with the same feelings of gratitude, joy and good cheer that others typically share. Instead, it can be a challenging time when people’s spirits are dampened in ways that affect their routine interactions as well as on festive occasions.

Underlying causes of the holiday blues vary. The reasons may be common and more widespread than we realize, or deeply personal. Some people are impacted by the added stress, fatigue, overcommercialization and unrealistic expectations of the season. Many struggle with financial pressures or being apart from loved ones at a time when togetherness is idealized.

For others, depression triggers can include traumatic childhood memories, a dysfunctional home life and even abuse at this time of year.

Having a game plan before the season
can minimize derailments.


A personal challenge

In my own experience, the loss of both parents has been a significant contributing factor. First, 10 years ago, my father died a week before Christmas. Then two years later, my mother passed away in early January after being basically comatose for several weeks.

But even before these personal losses, the holidays were not necessarily a happy time for me. I had become tired of the extreme commercialization and busyness. Plus, there were memories of my mother becoming more depressed during the “good-tidings-of-joy” period.

This holiday season, my first in Costa Rica, I plan to embrace good memories. My family is aware of my challenge in fighting the blues. I still miss my parents — that will never change. But I choose to celebrate good memories of the past instead, while making beautiful new ones here.

I won’t “compare and despair” as I read other people’s social network posts. I’m more than happy and content with what I have now and who I’m with now. Therefore, I’m stronger going into this holiday period.

Blues management tips

Here are five suggestions to help you feel less blue, or better able to manage your blue spells:

1. Learn to say no. Overcommitment or feeling obligated to attend every holiday event leads to stress and exhaustion. You’re not superhuman; if you try to please everyone, you’ll pay the price.

2. Limit alcohol. Yes, alcohol is a depressant. It actually makes you more depressed when the short-lived numbness wears off and leaves you in a worse emotional state.

3. Love the ones you’re with. Cherish your sweetest memories of lost loved ones. Embrace the good people in your life today. Video chat with those who are far away.

4. Let a devoted friend know about your challenge. Turn to someone you can count on as a source of encouragement. You may be surprised to discover how many others face similar challenges. Remember, you’re not alone!

5. Set your boundaries, expectations and limitations in advance. Having a game plan BEFORE the season kicks off can minimize derailments. Be clear in making a list and be firm about staying on track.

Holiday Blues More resources:

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Regardless of one’s religious affiliation, the holiday season often inspires feelings of warmth, joy, and
belonging. But for some people, this time of year can evoke feelings of loneliness, stress and anxiety…

The holiday season can trigger depression for a number a reasons. You may not be able to make it home
for the holidays, or you may be in a rough financial situation. If you’re going through a difficult time, it
can be tough to see others with extra joy in their lives….

Joy to the world! ‘Tis the season to be jolly! Festive music fills the air; holiday cheer abounds. Everyone
is happy at holiday time — right? Wrong. Truth be told, many people feel lonely, sad, anxious and
depressed at this time of year. How can this be?

The holidays can be stressful. Shopping, social events, debt, and other pressures can lead to anxiety.
Missing loved ones, and stewing about past events can also contribute. This change from your everyday
routine can cause you to neglect good nutrition. And, you are more likely to skip exercise. Together,
these factors can lead to holiday blues.

Holidays are a time for celebrations, parties, and get-togethers. But sometimes the holiday season can
also be a source of the blues, especially for older people, who may think about how quickly time has
passed, or miss loved ones more during this time of year. Health conditions or concerns about money
can also make it harder to enjoy the holidays. The AGS Health in Aging Foundation offers the following
tips to help cope with the blues that may accompany the holidays.