For most of us, the holiday season inspires feelings of warmth and joy. But for some people, this time of year can evoke feelings of loneliness, stress, anxiety, and depression, often referred to as the “holiday blues.” Even people who love the holidays can experience the blues during this busy season.
A survey by the American Psychological Association uncovered some interesting data about the holiday blues:
- While the majority of people in the survey reported feelings of happiness, love, and high spirits over the holidays, those emotions were often accompanied by feelings of fatigue, stress, irritability, and sadness.
- 38% of people surveyed said their stress level increased during the holiday season. Participants listed the top stressors: lack of time, lack of money, commercialism, the pressures of gift-giving, and family gatherings.
There are a number of seasonal factors that can contribute to these feelings, including less sunlight, changes in diet and routine, increases in alcohol consumption, and extra stress from hosting family and friends or the inability to be with family and friends.
During the holiday season, it’s important to take care of yourself by being realistic about what you can and can’t do. Here are a few tips to keep holiday stressors from affecting your mental and physical well-being.
- Give yourself some time away from the hype, even if it’s just for an hour a day. Avoid overbooking yourself, but be careful to not seclude yourself as that increases feelings of anxiety or depression.
- Increase your physical activity as exercise has an anti-anxiety and anti-depression effect. Even a small amount of walking, such as parking further from the store, can improve your state of mind.
- Accept others, especially those in your family, for who they are. Trying to change someone else is exhausting and usually doesn’t work. Redirect your energy to accept situations and people.
- Let go of phrases like, “It should be this way” or “I wish it were…” Try to enjoy the moment unfolding without placing expectations on a situation that may not be possible.
- Express gratitude towards others by showing them your appreciation. Sending a note, giving a call, or saying “thank you” are good ways to let others know you are thankful. Expressing gratitude throughout the year is a great way to improve your emotional well-being and develop a positive outlook on life.
- Volunteering or making donations can be a great source of comfort, simply knowing that you're making a small dent in the lives of people who are less fortunate.
- Make to-do lists each day to prioritize a few tasks at a time rather than trying to tackle everything at once.
For many of us, seasonal stress and anxiety end once the holidays are over. But for some individuals, the negative feelings persist into January and February and may include financial worries as well. If the holiday season passes and you're still feeling depressed or anxious, it's best to consult with a medical professional.
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