Regardless of a person’s religion, there are typically some exciting holidays that approach near the end of the year. These times offer an opportunity for joy and a well-earned break from a long year of work. There’s certainly some debate over when the holiday season starts — particularly thanks to Christmas decorations popping up earlier every year — but their appearance serves as a reminder of things to come. Unfortunately, it can also lead to the holiday blues.
Even though this season is meant to be joyous, it also serves as a reminder of the challenges we’ve faced throughout the year. In some cases, we may still be dealing with those challenges. This type of reflection isn’t always beneficial to our mental health. There are certainly many who look forward to reconnecting with loved ones, seeing old friends, and forcing a smile through awkward dinners. However, many others face the holiday with loneliness, anxiety, stress, and even a bit of dread.
What Are the “Holiday Blues”?
The majority of adults have fairly predictable routines in their daily lives. There’s a certain time they wake up on weekdays, and many will go to work on each of these days. When the weekend arrives, they may give themselves a treat by visiting a favorite restaurant and staying out a little late. Of course, this wouldn’t be late enough to miss church on Sunday — but still, later than usual. Come Monday, it’s back to the hustle and grind.
Unfortunately, the holiday blues can affect anyone regardless of their schedule. Someone who works part-time can be just as stressed — or even more so — than a person who frequently puts in 80-hour weeks. The important takeaway from this is that holiday blues can be many different things. Perhaps someone suffers the blues because they’re forced to work a job they dislike in order to care for their family. Maybe they have become lonely even while living in a big city.
No matter the reason, holiday blues is simply feeling down once the end of the year approaches. Sadly, some people are at a greater risk for these feelings than others.
Who Does the Holiday Blues Most Affect?
Many young professionals embarked on their life experiences by moving away from home. There are also middle-aged adults who have been alone most of their lives or lost the people they love — either to time or from children moving away. In either situation, these people will rely on colleagues and peers to prevent social isolation. Of course, this becomes complicated during the holidays.
All those people that help avoid social isolation are suddenly leaving town and spending more time with their own families. This disrupts the routines of those who depend on them. This obviously isn’t their fault, but it leaves those who need social connection alone and without a family to be around. This can easily lead to the stress, anxiety, and loneliness seen with the holiday blues.
Of course, you don’t have to be socially isolated to deal with sadness during the holidays. People with strong connections to others may find themselves overwhelmed with financial burdens. On top of all the bills they typically have to pay, they’re suddenly hit with the necessity of purchasing gifts for others. Even those who don’t have to buy gifts are typically straddled with end-of-year financial obligations. This can make a joyous time of year nothing but stressful.
How to Fight the Holiday Blues
The reasons behind the holiday blues you’re feeling can be wide and varied, and there’s not always one right answer. In most cases, though, such sadness is linked to loneliness, finances, loss of loved ones, remembering past holidays, and even a lack of sunshine. Regardless of the underlying reason behind such feelings, though, there are several ways you can fight back:
1. Avoid the Temptation to “Hunker Down”
It’s going to be tempting to isolate yourself and stay home when you’re sad during the holidays. After all, staying home and watching television may be the best idea you can come up with. However, this is not good for your mental well-being. Even if it’s nothing more than going out for a coffee or visiting your local library, remaining active and being around others can improve your outlook. Even smiling at someone who holds a door for you can do wonders for the spirit.
Of course, it’s possible that these normal routines may just remind you of what you’re missing out on. In such a situation, it’s often enough to simply find anything to help you occupy yourself. Go on a guided tour with excited visitors. Go volunteer to remind yourself that it’s better to give than to receive. Just find something that can get you out of the house. You’ll be surprised at how much it helps fight the holiday blues.
2. Cry If You Need To, But Don’t Forget to Smile
Are you missing someone this holiday season? Did you lose a loved one around the holidays? This is a harsh reality that far too many have to face, and you may feel the need to have a mini breakdown and cry session. If that’s the case, that’s exactly what you should do. Don’t think you’re alone in this. Many people find it cathartic to let their emotions go every so often.
However, this shouldn’t be the only time you express emotion. It’s important to find things that can put a smile on your face. Go watch a comedy in local theaters if that’s all that’s available. Heck, even forcing a smile has been scientifically proven to make people happier. Cry when you must, but always make time for a smile.
3. Make New Memories
Even people who don’t deal with the holiday blues experience a bit of difficulty thanks to memories of the past. Let’s be real, holidays as an adult can’t hold a candle to our experiences in childhood. We’re often left looking back at a time when the world seemed magical, and constantly thinking about happier times is the perfect recipe for feeling sad during the holidays. Fortunately, you can move past this without forgetting prior joys.
Accomplishing this comes down to creating new memories. Spend time with the people you love, and if none are nearby, take time to hang around others even if no permanent bonds are made. You can also start your own new traditions that will give you something to look forward to every holiday season. It can be something as simple as volunteering at the local children’s hospital or cooking meals for elderly neighbors.
This will help you take your mind off bad memories while also minimizing the sadness caused by happy memories that the present simply can’t live up to.
4. Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder
While it might sound strange, the fall and winter seasons themselves can cause sadness. It’s during these times of the year when there are fewer hours of sunlight. You’ll also find that overcast skies and less-than-appealing weather show their faces more often. This lack of sunlight has a very real effect on our mental health known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Fortunately, you can even fight back against this.
For instance, not everywhere is dreary during the holiday season. Give yourself permission to book a trip somewhere that’s a bit sunnier. Prices for cruises have been going down for years, and we’ve also seen steep drops in airfare on occasion. Of course, not everyone can afford a trip. However, you might be able to afford a gym membership. Science shows that physical activity releases hormones that increase happiness, so fight SAD at its source!
5. What If You Don’t Have Money?
We’ve mentioned it a few times throughout this piece, but it bears repeating: volunteerism can do great things. No matter why the holiday blues have grabbed hold of you, volunteering can help you come back to a happier place. In addition to the great feeling of helping the less fortunate, you’ll also get to spend time with other people. This is a win-win, and it costs absolutely zero dollars to enjoy.
You Deserve Cheer, So Fight For It
The holiday blues can come out of nowhere and hit hard. Fortunately, you don’t have to let them win. Whenever you get those invitations to eat, drink, and be merry, just make a point of accepting them. If the invitations don’t come, find your own happiness in the little and big things.
Acknowledge and appreciate the small things in life, and you’ll uncover true moments of happiness. These special memories are often enough to carry us well into the next year and far beyond.