10 Tips to Beat the Holiday Blues

Tired Santa sitting on the floor

While the holidays inspire peace and joy, they can also worsen sadness and stress. Symptoms of the so-called “holiday blues” can include headaches, insomnia, anxiety, sadness, intestinal problems and unnecessary conflicts with loved ones.

Mood changes, anxiety and feelings of depression can happen during this time of year for a variety of reasons, such as overeating and drinking too many alcoholic beverages, fatigue, and having loads of extra demands (e.g., shopping, cooking, going to office parties, entertaining house guests, traveling). The downturn of our economy has also increased uneasiness among many of us who were already stressed out about the financial burden the holidays bring.

To help you feel more jolly and less misery this season, here are some tips:

  1. Build new traditions. Don’t expect the holidays to be like they were when you were a child. Recognize that you might have to let go of family rituals and build new ones. For example, if your children and grandchildren aren’t able to gather at your home, celebrate from afar by sharing pictures, e-mails or videos, or skyping.
  2. Be reasonable with your schedule. People will understand that you can’t do everything. Say yes to only what you really want to do and you’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Forgive and forget. Practice forgiveness and leave behind arguments and past resentments with family members and/or friends until you can talk about them at a more appropriate time.
  4. Ask for support. If you’re feeling isolated or down, look to family members and friends, or become involved in community, religious or social services. For example, volunteer to serve a holiday meal at a homeless shelter or visit patients at your local hospital.
  5. Plan ahead and organize your time. Set aside specific days for baking, shopping, decorating, visiting friends and other holiday activities.
  6. Stick to a budget. Don’t be pressured to impress everyone. Before you go shopping, decide how much you can afford and stick to that budget.
  7. Make time for you. Keep doing the things you love and should do for your overall wellness: regular exercise, yoga, massage and/or spiritual practices. Get plenty of sleep, too.
  8. Don’t tip too many back. If you drink alcohol, don’t let the holidays become your rationale for overindulging. Remember, alcohol is a depressant.
  9. Snub your inner Martha Stewart. The cookies could burn, you could miss your child’s holiday concert and you could have a fight with your sister—all in the same week. Allow for life’s imperfections in yourself and others around you.
  10. Seek help, if needed. Keep in mind: the holidays will not automatically dissolve feelings of loneliness, sadness, frustration, anger and/or fear. If you feel you are persistently sad or anxious, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, or incapable of dealing with everyday chores, talk to your primary health care provider or seek professional help from a mental health expert (particularly if your symptoms last several weeks).