Coping with holiday blues: How to navigate holiday depression

The MIND 24-7 Team | November 13, 2023

The holiday season is often depicted as a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness. But in reality, the time of year can prompt a complex array of feelings, including happiness, longing, hope, regret, gratitude, and grief. For many people, the holidays can even be a time of increased stress, overwhelm, and depression. Amidst all the holiday excitement, it is also important to spend some time talking about the challenges the season can bring and exploring ways to overcome them. In this guide, we discuss why the holidays are hard on mental health and share tips for coping with holiday blues. 

What is holiday depression?

Holiday depression, also referred to as the “holiday blues,” is a type of depression that typically begins in late November and extends through the New Year. Similar to clinical depression, it consists of feelings of sadness, loneliness, and unease. It happens when the expectations, pressures, and stresses of the holiday season make the emotional struggles that many people face daily worse. 

Why are the holidays hard on mental health?

Many factors can trigger or make depression worse during the holiday season. For many, it is a season of increased stress, isolation, and emotional challenges. 

For starters, the media often portrays ideal versions of the holidays. Social media feeds are often filled with picture-perfect highlights from people’s lives. All of this messaging makes it hard to have realistic expectations. When expectations are sky-high, disappointment is likely to follow. 

Adding to this complexity, the holiday season is all about family. For many, complex family dynamics can be a source of stress and tension. For those who have lost loved ones, the holidays can also serve as painful reminders of loss and grief. For those who are separated from loved ones or lack close relationships, the holidays can make feelings of loneliness worse. 

Many people travel, host, and buy gifts. These additional expenses and activities can lead to stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. Between the high demands and high emotions, the holidays can be hard on mental health. 

Why is self-care during the holiday season important? 

During the holiday season, we often press pause on our routines. With more on the calendar and to-do list, it can be easy to let self-care fall by the wayside, but keeping it up is more important than ever. Self-care helps fill your cup so you are better prepared to navigate whatever the season brings. To practice self-care, take time for yourself and make sure your needs are met. 

12 practical tips on how to deal with holiday depression

The holiday blues can be rough, but the good news is that there are many ways to improve things. Here are some tips:

  1. Set realistic goals and expectations to avoid setting yourself up for disappointment. 
  2. Know your limits. Do not take on more than you can handle. 
  3. Spend time with supportive and caring people.
  4. Consider volunteering to help those in need. 
  5. Don’t let comparison be the thief of joy. Live in the present and be thankful for what you have. 
  6. Resist the urge to pack all the holiday excitement and pressure into one day. Spread the holiday cheer over the season, and take the pressure off singular days. 
  7. Look for small glimmers of joy and hope, like a kind word from a stranger, the feeling of a cozy scarf, or a special moment with a friend. 
  8. Keep track of spending to avoid financial stress down the road. 
  9. Avoid drugs and alcohol. These substances can lead to low emotions and make it harder to deal with challenges. 
  10. Get adequate sleep to feel refreshed each new day. 
  11. Exercise to get endorphins flowing. 
  12. Talk to a mental health professional. 

Seek help for holiday depression at MIND 24-7

If the season gets you down, it is okay to ask for help. No one has to face holiday depression alone. 

At MIND 24-7, we are here for you. Whether there is a mental health crisis or you just need someone to talk to, we can help. Our clinics are staffed with licensed mental health clinicians who can see patients quickly. We offer walk-in, emergency, and ongoing mental health and substance use services to people of all ages, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of their ability to pay. We currently have several locations in the Phoenix area, and our doors are always open – even on holidays. 
For help with holiday depression and to get mental health care quicky, visit one of our convenient locations or text/call 1-844-MIND247.