Help for the holiday blues

Here's how to recognize the signs, plus tips for making them go away

Sad-looking teddy bear wearing a Santa hat


This content is provided to Johns Hopkins employees through a partnership with EHP.

The holidays can be stressful. Shopping, social events, debt, and other pressures can lead to anxiety. Missing loved ones and stewing about past events can also contribute. The change from your everyday routine can cause you to neglect good nutrition. And you are more likely to skip exercise. Together, these factors can lead to holiday blues.

Will your holiday be blue?

During the holidays, you may feel lonely, sad, or angry, and have poor sleep. Even if you're not prone to depression, you may have symptoms such as headaches, tension, and fatigue. It's easy to eat and drink too much as well.

It's also common to feel a letdown after the holidays are over, or physically and emotionally drained by the hectic pace of the season. You may feel a sense of loss or frustration. That can turn into the blues.

Don't confuse holiday blues—which could need something as simple as a good listener—with clinical depression, a disorder that may need to be treated with medicine. Clinical depression can be triggered in a number of ways at, or just after, the holidays.

There is also a tendency to link the holiday blues with seasonal affective disorder (also called depression with seasonal pattern), which is a diagnosable problem linked to fewer hours of sunlight during the winter. People with the holiday blues can also have SAD, but the two are not directly related. People with SAD have symptoms of major depression throughout the fall and winter.

Keeping the blues away

People tend to lose sleep during the holidays and end up shortchanging themselves, so you might ease your holiday blues with something as simple as getting enough rest. Lack of sleep can cause cloudy thinking and irritability. It can also hamper your ability to deal with everyday stress.

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and getting some exercise also can ease the blues, as can making an effort to stay positive.

Tips to ease the blues

If you have the holiday blues, try these tips:

  • Have a heart-to-heart with a friend.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Stick within your normal routine as much as you can.
  • Set a realistic budget and then stick to it.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations.
  • Don't label the season as a time to cure past problems.
  • Don't be afraid to say no. Don't overextend yourself by going to parties or other events that will crowd your time.
  • Find time for yourself.
  • Enjoy free holiday activities.
  • Try to celebrate the holidays in a different way.

The holiday blues can be quite common, but if you are feeling especially down—for example, your sleep or your appetite is affected, or if your feelings persist after the holidays—contact your health care provider or visit Mental Health America for help and guidance. Through mySupport, university employees have free 24/7 access to confidential counseling and referral services by calling 443-997-7000.

Posted in Health+Well-Being

Tagged hr newswire