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As we approach the end of the year, the loved ones around us may be busy finalising their holiday plans. You, yourself, may be about to set off on a trip too or have an exciting line-up of activities over the next few weeks!
However, despite so many incredible things planned, you feel a little… empty? A little sad and stressed, even. It can be disconcerting to feel this way, when you’re surrounded by such a festive atmosphere – but there’s nothing wrong with what you’re feeling.
It’s called the “Holiday Blues” and is a perfectly common feeling amongst many, as we head into the holiday period.
What is Holiday Blues?
As its name implies, the “Holiday Blues” is the feeling of sadness or depression and anxiety during the holidays.
Common signs of holiday blues include:
- Feeling fatigue at the thought of your plans or unmotivated to follow through with your commitments
- Being anxious about what’s coming up on your schedule
- Feeling lonely or isolated, even when you’re with your loved ones
- Feeling sad or depressed
- A sense of loss or emptiness
- Changes in your appetite or sleeping patterns
The key difference between the holiday blues and clinical depression or anxiety is that these feelings are temporary and are brought on by the stress or events of the festive season. However, even if these emotions are temporary, it’s still important to take them seriously; prolonged negative feelings can build up and have a huge negative impact on your overall mental health.
Why do we get the Holiday Blues?
Gifts, time off from work, and typically an overseas trip – year-end festivities should be a time for happiness and great celebration… And that’s why it can be jarring if you’re experiencing the holiday blues.
The end of the year signals the closing of another chapter in our lives; and this can prompt us to be more self-reflective about the events of the year. While it’s important to constantly reflect and be mindful of who we are, reflecting on what we’ve done over the year may be a paralysing and demoralising process for some of us.
This is especially so if the year hadn’t gone as we planned – whether it’s a bad break-up that we’d experienced or a promotion at work that didn’t come to fruition – taking stock of the year could make us think of everything we had missed out on, if our mind latches on the negative.
With the excitement around the holidays, there can also be a sense of unspoken pressure to make the most of our plans. This creates unrealistic expectations around the festive season – and if we don’t have as much fun as we’d thought we should have, this can be another additional source of stress, adding to the holiday blues.
Lastly, with inflation rising and the recession creeping around the corner, financial concerns are top-of-mind at the moment. However, the year-end period is when expenses tend to rise, what with overseas trips, present giving and catch-ups over fancy meals. Worries over your personal budget can put a damper on your mood and place more stress on you.
What can we do to manage our moods?
Embrace what you’re feeling
The first step towards managing holiday blues is acknowledging your emotions. It’s counterproductive to deny what you’re feeling, or even worse, pretend like you’re having a great time when you’re feeling the exact opposite.
Take some time to sit down with your emotions; you can even write them down in a journal, and see if that helps you to identify the source of your anxiety and sadness. These are some journaling prompts to get you started:
- What are three things that you’re grateful for today?
- What is something that you’re worried about? Is it within your control?
- What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
The easiest way to start is to practise healthy habits. This means eating well, moving regularly and getting quality sleep. Our mental health is intricately linked with our physical health – and by taking care of our physical bodies, we’ll start to feel better emotionally as well.
Treat yourself kindly for what you’re feeling. Rather than beat yourself up for the holiday blues, practice self-care and give yourself the time and space to relax. Engage in activities that are soothing and can help with the tension you’re holding in your body. For example, you could:
- Go on daily walks in the morning or evening at your nearest park and spend time in nature
- Borrow your favourite book from the library or try out a new series
- Cook a recipe that you’ve always wanted to try
Learn how to be mindful and embrace the present. Focusing on what’s in front of you can help to mediate the unrealistic expectations you have about the holidays. There’s no such thing as a perfect holiday; ironically, the more you let go of that idea of the best day ever!, the more you’ll find that you’re enjoying your plans.
Find support in your community
It’s also important not to isolate yourself. Isolating yourself from social gatherings can lead to negative thoughts spiralling within your own mind and be detrimental. Instead, reach out to your loved ones and let them know what you’re feeling.
You may feel reluctant to do this because you don’t want to “bring down the mood during the holidays”; but in the same way that you’d want your loved ones to tell you if they’re feeling upset, your loved ones would want to support you, if you’re having a tough time.
Letting your friends in may also mean it’s easier to adjust your plans (such as perhaps having dinner at someone’s house instead of going to an expensive restaurant), if financial concerns are what’s weighing you down. After all, the purpose of the holiday season is to enjoy spending time together.
Seek professional help.
If your feelings get too overwhelming or if they persist for a long period of time, it could be a sign of something more serious. In these cases, it may be good to speak to a trained mental health expert, such as a psychologist or counsellor, for professional advice. These experts would be able to equip you with the skills to manage your emotions and cope with the negative feelings you have in a productive way.
Get in touch with us if you think you’d like some extra support. Our members are a trained panel of psychologists and counsellors, experienced with guiding you on your journey towards better mental health.
An experienced health & wellness writer, I am a story-teller at heart. For me, writing is a way of weaving together the little details that make our existence meaningful and significant into a beautiful, larger story.