The first time I heard the term, “holiday blues”, I was a child and assumed it must have something to do with the blues music genre or perhaps the blues of the holiday season coming to an end. As I grew older and life become a little more complex, I quickly realized that the holiday blues were in fact, very real, and very common.
As a child, I always celebrated with my parents and sister near a little Christmas tree, opening as many presents from Santa as possible while spending time with family and watching holiday movies, rarely caring much about the gift itself. Even during my adolescent and teenage years, I always attended multiple Christmas parties and white elephant gift exchanges with friends and coworkers.
After the passing of my dad and with my sister and I getting older, our excitement for the holidays became less and less. A couple of years ago following the passing of my younger sister, I felt my first serious bout of anxiety and depression at the thought of the upcoming holiday season, especially while being in a new city knowing very few people. Not to mention, the cold weather, shorter days and dark skies that don’t make it any easier.
I am filled with immense gratitude to say that my holiday blues were very short-lived as I met some very special people over the past year that made Christmastime bearable- enjoyable, in fact- and I am once again happy to be a part of holiday festivities with family, friends and coworkers. But this time, I am very aware that this is not the case for everyone, and there are many people facing serious anxiety, stress and depression during this time.
Here are my top seven tips from both personal and professional experience that you or anyone undergoing holiday stress/blues can try out to feel calmer, happier, and more joyful during this time of year.
If you are experiencing loneliness or the holidays fall at a time following a period of grief and loss, then you simply have a lot of love with nowhere to put it. Whether it’s volunteering at the food bank or simply spending time with a fellow lonely neighbor, volunteering your time and energy to help someone else can be a great way to lift your mood and feel connected
Limit Social Media
We all know by now that social media use is directly linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety. This is especially true during the holidays when more people are posting photos of vacations, new presents, time off work, and time spent with their families, friends and significant others. By spending less time on your phone, you will be able to be more present and focus on the good you do have instead of the FOMO from the countless holiday parties around you.
Balance Your Time
Some people tend to really go all out and spend all their time on activities and tasks relating to the holidays. From making plans with relatives and friends, to using up their savings on expensive gifts, to worrying about what outfits to wear or recipes to cook at the various holiday-themed gatherings, there is always something to do that has to do with the holidays. The good news is that you do not have to partake in all of it, and you can choose which family members, friends, and events you want to prioritize while still taking time out for self-care and the things that bring you joy.
Watch Your Diet
We all saw this one coming, didn’t we? A list of tips to manage depression and anxiety would be incomplete without mentioning your holiday diet. December is arguably the most difficult month to pay attention to what you’re eating, because we are constantly surrounded by wholesome meals and sweet treats wherever we go! But I understand, and would never advise you to refrain entirely from your favorite foods. All I’m saying here is to be aware of what you are putting into your body and choose your sugars carefully, because a healthy gut creates a healthy mind and nothing you eat will taste as good as being healthy will feel.
I know that no one likes to hear this, especially when you’re busy and depressed and it’s just so dark and cold and dreadful outside, but staying active is KEY when you are trying to beat the stress and blues of the holiday season. I’m not saying you need to workout for hours on end every single day at the gym, but simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing a quick 10 minute workout in the morning can really work wonders for your mood (and your body)!
Get Some Rest
Quite the contrary to tip number four, ensuring that you are well-rested is just as important as all the other things on your to-do list. In fact, it can be one of the most important tips to prevent illness and feel healthier, being that the holiday season falls at at time when the rates of colds and viruses are so high. Again, prioritize what truly matters and include adequate time for sleep as you plan out your schedule during this time.
Celebrate The Real Meaning
With all of the chaos centered around Christmas, it’s easy to forget the essence of the holiday season. So go ahead and partake in the festivities to your heart’s content, and indulge in your favorite material pleasures if you so desire, but do it while keeping in mind the true meaning of the holidays. This can be a time of generosity, forgiveness, gratitude, reflection and upliftment, and these will still be there long after the holidays are over- values which you can instill in yourself and spread to those around you that will aid in depression and anxiety for years to come.