Got the Holiday Blues?
Know the Signs, Causes and Tips to Avoid It

We often associate the holidays with relaxation, enjoyment, and fun. It’s considered a period that’s meant to help us unwind and de-stress from the day-to-day hurdles of life.

However, the holiday season is not always a festive time for all. In fact, for some, it can be a difficult phase of isolation and loneliness.

A global survey administered in 2021 reported that 33% of the adult population across the globe experience feelings of loneliness. Furthermore, an AARP Foundation survey found that 31% of people experience loneliness during the holiday season — usually referred to as the ‘holiday blues.’

So if you ever find yourself feeling like you’re down in the dumps at this time, you are not alone. However, know that you don’t have to bear with it as there are stress treatments available.

To help you cope with the holiday blues, we’ll discuss it in depth — including the signs and symptoms, causes and tips to avoid it.

Holiday Blues — Signs and Symptoms

If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing the holiday blues, be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms:

Why does it happen?

There are several factors that contribute to the gloominess and dejection some people experience during the holidays. Some of these factors are as follows:

1. Unrealistic expectations

Most people tend to imagine only desirable events happening to them. They hold high hopes with regard to life outcomes which, in most cases, are unrealistic and can result in major disappointment.

Additionally, during the holiday season, people set high expectations as to how they will spend it and with whom. When these expectations are not met, feelings of guilt, anxiety and shame arise.

2. Financial factors

Individuals who’ve lost their jobs or cannot afford to travel during the festive season(s) tend to experience holiday blues. Moreover, negative emotional situations arise among those who cannot engage in certain luxurious activities (associated with the holidays) due to financial constraints.

3. Unfeasible goals

The hype created around the holiday season takes a toll on people’s mental health. This is exacerbated by people’s own actions in trying to live up to high standards of enjoying themselves usually portrayed on various social media platforms, movies, and in television ads.

4. Loneliness

As Aristotle said, ’Man is a social animal’ and thus, cannot endure isolation.

If an individual is unable to spend the holiday season with their family or loved ones, there is a high possibility that they might feel socially excluded or isolated. This feeling of seclusion can lead to loneliness during the holiday season, further causing people to feel anxious about the holidays.

What can be done?

To overcome the holiday blues, you could apply certain coping strategies that will help you manage your emotions and stress in a healthy way, and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed:

1. Acknowledge your feelings.

Most people do not want to admit and accept how they are feeling. They ignore the feelings of anxiety and worry they experience, and continue to stay in denial. Doing this only exacerbates anxiety. Therefore, the first measure to resolve any issue is by acknowledging the problem; in this case, the holiday blues you are feeling.

2. Engage in different activities.

Not being surrounded by family or friends should not stop you from engaging in different activities or taking up new hobbies. These can be a good source of distraction that will give you the break you need from wearying thoughts of loneliness.

3. Practice deep breathing.

Take a few minutes every day to sit back, take a break and breathe! Practicing deep breathing exercises will not only reduce stress but also help you to calm down and relax.

4. Stay active.

Exercise regularly. It has been scientifically proven that physical activity reduces symptoms of depression. It is not necessary to engage in high-cardio workouts or heavy weight training; in fact, simply going for a walk is sufficient.

5. Get enough sleep.

Lack of sleep increases stress and drains your energy, leaving you fatigued for the next day. Hence, getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep is a must for you to function well and engage in productive tasks throughout the day.

6. Eat healthy.

Have a healthy eating pattern with a balanced diet. Cut down on caffeine and reduce sugar intake. Eating healthy will make you feel good about yourself and your body. When you stick to a healthy food diet, your overall mood remains stable, with feelings of calmness.

7. Set realistic expectations.

Disappointment comes from unrealistic expectations. If you can rationalize these expectations, then they are less likely to cause you distress. Every time a goal is set, make sure it is challenging enough for you, but also attainable.

8. Reach out to other people.

Call an old friend or socialize with people in your neighborhood. Interacting with different people and reaching out to them may ignite a sense of belonging that could be very crucial for any person suffering from the holiday blues.

9. Seek professional help.

In some situations, the impact or the outcome of the holiday blues might be too overwhelming, so you cannot deal with it by yourself. In such cases, there is no harm or shame in seeking professional help.

Overcome the Holiday Blues

The term ‘holiday’ does not have a positive connotation for everyone. In fact, it is a period some people fear because of compounding factors like loneliness, isolation, unrealistic expectations, and a poor financial status.

Although overcoming the holiday blues could be challenging,you can cope with the signs and symptoms effectively by applying the tips mentioned here.

Acknowledging feelings, engaging in different activities, eating healthy, having a proper sleep schedule, and setting realistic expectations are some of the things you can do to help yourself and other people who are feeling a little bit down during the holidays.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms described in this blog post, or just need someone to talk to, please visit us for a consultation.

Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.

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