Is it Normal to Feel Down or Anxious During the Holidays?

The holidays are a time of laughter and fun for many. Unfortunately, for others it’s a time that brings on a lot of stress, anxiety and for some even depression. Financial troubles are especially evident during times that are known for people splurging on gifts and good food. Others, may have money, but may be affected by family dysfunction and/or loss, that is  magnified during this season. Furthermore, entering crowded rooms full of people or taking a flight somewhere can also be very overwhelming.  In short, the holidays amplify the anxiety and depression that people deal with on a day-to-day basis.

A survey done by the American Psychological Association found that people are very emotional during the holidays. Although some report feelings of love and happiness, they are also more likely to feel stress. Women in particular are under this group, as they take charge of the many holiday festivities. Additionally, they found that work stress during the holidays actually increases; many being worried about finishing work obligations, or not having enough time off to enjoy the holidays. “According to a recent survey, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse and 40% “somewhat” worse””(Nami, 2018).


There are several things you can do to cope during this time of the year:

Be gentle with yourself. If you notice that you are too overwhelmed take time for yourself and have some time for self love.

Pace yourself. Do not take on too many tasks that will overwhelm you later.

Be realistic about your expectations. Your family will not change in a day. If your family triggers you during the year, do not expect the holidays to be much different.

Do not set yourself up for disappointment. Some people believe that the holidays will bring back how things were in the past. Unfortunately, people do change and so do family dynamics. Remember if they affect you in a way you cannot cope, find alternatives. You can also choose to spend time with friends.

Don’t compare yourself to others. This is especially true when you are going over social media posts. Remember, things are not always what they seem to be and there is often times more than meets the eye.

If you are lonely try volunteering somewhere. I guarantee that there are other people out there lonelier than you.

Limit your drinking. Alcohol is know to be a depressant. If you are already feeling a little blue this could only make your feelings of depression seem worse.

Write things down. This time of the year people have so many things to do and so little time. Writing down your plans, agenda, budget and even keeping a journal of your feelings can help keep you grounded.

Be mindful of your spending. Finances are especially strained during this time, keeping track of what you spend and budget so you will not be surprised after.

New Year’s is a time for new resolutions. Start making a list of what changes you would like to see during the next year. It is also a perfect time to make a vision board.

Do exercise. During the holidays we tend to eat more, exercise less and be more sedative. Always making up excuses because there is so much to do. Make sure you take the time to do some type of exercise. This helps to increase endorphins, which triggers positive feelings in the body. It also helps with self-esteem, reduces stress and feelings of depression.

Important to seek social support. Isolation does not help get ride of the holiday blues, but distraction with a good friend can help re-direct those thoughts that are actually making you feel down.

Make sure you get some sunlight. Sounds strange, but its one of the reasons why its  sometimes called the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It might be too cold outside but keeping the curtains open and exposure to daylight or even artificial sunlight can help.

Consult a counselor or a coach that can help you get unstuck.  A therapist can help you understand how your thoughts affect your mood and give you tools to feel better. They will also help you understand if this is something seasonal or may be something that is ongoing.

These are all just tips. You may have other solutions to the holiday blues that really help. Do whatever helps you, or pick and choose. Remember everyone is different, and what works for some might not work for others. Just make sure you go easy on yourself, and give yourself a tap on the shoulder from time to time knowing that you tried. Keep in mind that nothing is perfect and that there are so many people out there that experience similar feelings. Pay attention to your and notice if they disappear after the holidays, or if they interfere with daly living. If the latter is true, this may be a sign of something more serious. Consult a therapist and get the help you need. Its a good way to start the New Year.