December 12, 2023
How To Fight The Holiday Blues
The holiday season typically elicits elation - spending time with loved ones, exchanging gifts, having time off from work/school, and all the Hallmark movies your heart desires. But for many people, the ‘holiday blues’ is reality. Holiday stressors can bring a feeling of sadness and depression for many people. Some of the factors that can impact this include financial stress, grief from missing loved ones, and the demands of never-ending parties and family/social obligations. Other forms of seasonal depression (commonly diagnosed as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder) also impacts many. Approximately 14% of Americans experience the “winter blues.”
For parents, holidays are the times you want to make cherished memories. If you are dealing with the stress of sadness, you are not alone in this. Understanding what these “blues” are is a step in combatting it. Healthline indicates that feeling like simple activities are more difficult than normal (getting out of bed, making dinner, taking a walk), in addition to feeling more tired than usual, losing interest in things that used to bring you joy, and having difficulty concentrating are among some signs you might be experiencing depression. Youthvillages notes that these stressors can impact children just as much as caregivers, resulting in temporary yet difficult emotions. For children, some of these symptoms may include sadness/tearfulness, withdrawal, unexplained stomach, body, or headaches, changes in sleep, and/or irritability.
Rest assured, there are strategies to get past this! For instance, for adults, limiting alcohol can be especially helpful. This can be difficult since many social gatherings during the holidays incorporate alcohol, but these different holiday themed drinks that look cute and fun can actually amplify negative feelings. Sleep is also highlighted as an important factor to keep your mood steady. Allow yourself to rest when needed and try to stick to some kind of schedule. This not only benefits you, but also benefits your family - you can all wake up and feel rested to take on the day! Healthline also highlights learning to say “no.” We all feel the pressures of seeing family and friends during the holiday season, and we can be easily stretched thin. Overscheduling and not making time for yourself can lead to fatigue which can worsen feelings of sadness. In other words, it’s okay to pass on a plan!
Grieving loved ones during the holidays is perhaps one of the hardest things about losing someone. As a parent, you might be struggling with your own feelings of loss, in addition to those of your children and family. When a loved one has passed, our holidays typically look and feel very different. Although it can be tempting to skip holidays or isolate, it’s beneficial to spend time with your other loved ones. It’s okay to shed a few tears but try to focus on telling uplifting or funny stories about your loved one. There are many books you can read as a family if your children are struggling with bereavement. One in particular that we love is The Invisible String by Patrice Karst, and I Miss You by Lesley Harker, both available on Amazon. Remember that the holidays are a time when people are typically generous, inviting, and uplifting. If you are in a situation where you feel lonely or isolated during the holidays, don’t be afraid to ask a friend or coworker if you can tag along with them.
If your child is experiencing mental health challenges due to the holiday season, some steps outlined by Youthvillages
to help are:
- Having proactive discussions with your child regarding potential stressors. Listen and show empathy, validate feelings, and give them some extra TLC
- Clarify what the expectations are for the holidays (i.e., events/activities, gifts, travel)
- Try to maintain some kind of routine (i.e., sleep, eating habits, time with friends)
- Ensure children receive physical activity (even just going for a family walk)
- Create holiday traditions as a family, such as cookie decorating, watching movies, making homemade cards/gifts, etc.
You may be accustomed to experiencing seasonal sadness, but we always encourage people to speak to a mental health professional if the feeling persists or if you have thoughts of suicide. Text 741741 if you are feeling depressed or suicidal, and a crisis worker will immediately text you back, free of cost, and continue to text with you to ensure you are okay. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by dialing 988.
If your child’s holiday blues last longer than a few weeks and/or include self-injurious, suicidal, or physically aggressive behavior, contact their PCP to discuss mental health counseling.
For more information on fighting the “Holiday Blues”, please visit: