Beating the holiday blues

The holidays can be a joyous time—a time to spend with family and friends, reflect, and be thankful. Yet, for many people, the holiday season can bring on the blues, including feelings of anxiety, stress, worry, and sadness. These feelings may even be worse for those who have experienced divorce, lost a loved one, or are living far away from family and friends.

The holiday blues

A 2014 survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that the holidays contribute to feelings of sadness or dissatisfaction. Of those surveyed:

  • 63% reported there was too much pressure
  • 57% stated they had unrealistic expectations
  • 66% reported experiencing loneliness
  • 50% were unable to be with loved ones
  • 55% found themselves remembering happier times in the past contrasting with the present
  • 68% reported feeling financially strained

While the holiday blues are different from mental illness, it can lead to clinical anxiety and depression. It is important that we do not ignore these feelings, especially as we all continue to deal with changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic but deal with them in a proactive and healthy manner.

Tips for beating the holiday blues

  1. Throw guilt out the window. Try not to put unreasonable pressure on yourself to be happy or enjoy the holidays and avoid overanalyzing your interactions with others. Give yourself an emotional and mental break this holiday season.
  2. Be realistic and try not to expect the “ideal” holiday. Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable by not trying to make the holiday “the best.” Be truthful to yourself and others about what you can and cannot do. And remember, nobody has a perfect holiday or perfect family.
  3. Give to others. Volunteering somewhere, like a soup kitchen, food bank, children’s group home or facility for the elderly can fill you with feelings of love and pride. You will spend time with others and immerse yourself in the true spirit of the holiday season.
  4. Stay connected. Schedule phone calls or virtual gatherings with your favorite folks where you can open gifts together, sing songs and reminisce. Spending time with those who love and value you can be very comforting and help ground everyone involved.
  5. Acknowledge the past yet look toward the future. Change is a constant part of life. If your holidays are not like they used to be, it is OK. Cherish the memories and remember everything does not have to be like past holidays for you to enjoy the season.
  6. Make a budget. Budgeting at the start of the season for holiday shopping and expenses is one of the most effective ways to alleviate stress. It helps prevent accidental overspending and allows you to manage expectations.

Want more tips for beating the holiday blues?

Visit the Magellan Healthcare holiday emotional wellbeing website for resources to help you find peace and moments of joy this holiday season here.

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