How to Battle the Holiday Blues

The holidays aren't always a time of merriment and joy—for some, the season presents the possibility of depression and anxiety.

For many people, the holidays are a time to relax, reconnect with family, and enjoy the festive spirit. But for many others—whether they suffer from strained family relations, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or undiagnosed depression or anxiety issues—December is also a time for increased loneliness, stress, fatigue, self-scrutiny, and pessimism about the future.
Those in danger of falling prey to the so-called "holiday blues" can be proactive, however, according to the advocacy and education group Mental Health America.


  • Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities.
  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don’t put the entire focus on just one day. Remember that it’s a season of holiday sentiment, and activities can be spread out to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
  • Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
  • Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
  • Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some of your time to help others.
  • Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping or making a snowperson with children.
  • Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
  • Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends, or contact someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
  • Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.
  • Phototherapy, a treatment involving a few hours of exposure to intense light, is shown to be effective in relieving depressive symptoms in patients with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even just taking a walk in morning or early afternoon sunlight has been shown to alleviate symptoms of seasonal depression.

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