Beating the Holiday Blues

December 20, 2022

Elvis famously crooned about “having a blue Christmas” and the most famous New Year’s Eve song “Auld Lang Syne” opens by wondering if we should forget old friends. The holiday season is supposed to be filled with the wonder of the season and merriment all around, but for some this time can be filled with a sense of sadness, also known as the holiday blues.

First, it’s important to realize that feeling down during the holiday season is okay and normal. The holidays are a time of high emotion, with many external demands and changes to routine. Many people miss loved ones due to distance or to death. And, with a new year, some may be disappointed by what didn’t happen in the previous year, whether it be goals or expectations.

Second, the holiday blues, unlike depression or seasonal affective disorder, is temporary. The symptoms are also usually mild. Sadness is the most common and persistent symptom, but it may not be constant and there may be some periods of optimism. Other signs might be similar to depression: weight change, sleep disruption, bad temper, anxiety, guilt, and lack of focus. The holiday blues isn’t a recognized psychiatric condition, so it can’t be diagnosed and usually won’t be treated with medication.

Still, general causes for the holiday blues are known – and that means there are ways to cope and make the holidays better.

  • Lack of sleep can increase stress, shorten tempers, and cause fuzzy thinking. Chaotic holidays schedules can interfere with sleep patterns. Carve out relaxation time. For a quick break, soak in a bath, dance to music, or watch a rerun of your favorite show. Don’t forget to go to bed at your usual time!
  • Overcommitting time or money can add stress both physically and financially. Both can come back in the new year to haunt you with either unfinished tasks or unpaid bills. Say no to more things. “No” is a complete sentence. If you feel guilty, decline with a thoughtful note or a promise to meet later. Stick to a gift budget or realize one gift per person is enough.
  • But complete isolation isn’t the answer either. It can be hard to want to get out into the world when you aren’t able to do it with family or friends who are far away. And social isolation can lead to depression. Interact with others. Have a friend or colleague over, find a volunteer opportunity, or visit a holiday display to see and be social.
  • Lots of food and lots of alcohol can be tempting – especially as everything and everyone is in celebration mode. Overeating and overdrinking can make the holiday blues worse. Limit alcohol. Part of the enjoyment of this season is to eat, drink, and be merry, so no need to cut off all indulgences. Have at most two drinks per event and eat a healthy snack beforehand to keep from eating too much.
  • With a hectic schedule, it can be hard to keep a regular workout schedule and very tempting to promise to get back to it later. Research has shown that regular exercise can prevent depression, so it is one of the best ways to blast the holiday blues. Exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be a grueling hour: A 20-minute walk should do the trick. So park the car farther out or commit to a stroll at any point during your day.
  • Perhaps the best advice is to let go of expectations. The holidays can be special without being perfect.

Of course, if the holiday blues persist, you may want to reach out for professional help. It’s not a bad idea to reach out during the holidays if symptoms feel heavy or prevent you from functioning. Kline Galland participates in an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which provides completely confidential support at no cost.  EAP can help with stress, anxiety, depression and family problems, find local services, and refer to long-term help if needed. They can be reached at 1-800-854-1446 (multi-lingual) or at

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental health, or if you want to start a new exercise program.

Sources: VeryWell Mind