A person presses their hands to the glass of a wintery snow globe, trapped inside. Pressed snowflakes design the wall behind them.

How to Beat the Holiday Blues

“Winter is coming…” For many folks, this is a time when we struggle to stay on track with healthy behaviors. Let us not forget though the stress, anxiety, and holiday blues that strikes many individuals as well. In this way, the holidays can pack a huge punch to not only our physical health but our mental health too.

Of course, holiday celebrations are intended to be a time of joy and togetherness. But there are a lot of reasons why it can also cause mental and emotional challenges. Learning to identify these challenges and how they make be working against you can help you make some changes this holiday season.

Holiday stress

With all of the events during the holidays, there comes stress. There’s the shopping, cooking, wrapping, decorating, and of course parties. It’s a lot to add to a normal routine and, as a consequence, our healthy behaviors tend to be the first to be sacrificed. Then there are the sweets that seem to be everywhere this time of year; this sets the stage for some serious stress eating.

The holidays are also a time when the “one-uppers” swing into high gear. You know them, they continue to set a higher standard each year for holiday activities and make you feel that your efforts are inferior. It may be your friend who makes home-made origami name tags on a pristine Thanksgiving table, a mother-in-law who decorates a tree to rival Rockefeller center, a coworker who creates thoughtful homemade gifts for the office, or it’s the neighbor whose holiday yard light display that draws a crowd.

You may find that you are your own worst “one-upper” enemy, always having to outdo what you did last year and, at the very least, maintain what you did before.

Then, of course, there is the financial stress of the holidays. Spending kicks into high gear between gifts, parties, and decorations. Many folks find it easy to get caught up in this spending and struggle to stick to a budget.

Holiday anxiety and dread

All of this stress can lead many of us to feel anxiety. Anxiety about all of the events, the finances, the to-do list of the holidays. But there is another layer of anxiety that some struggle with, this often applies to the forceful feeling of socializing with people you may not enjoy spending time with. If you have strained or stressful family dynamics, as so many people do, this creates a sense of anxiety and dread about attending holiday gatherings and family events. Then there are the split families, which often multiples events to attend, thus amplifying that stress.

What are holiday blues?

The holiday blues are a real thing that many people encounter. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time. This is especially heightened during the first few holidays following such a loss, as the absence of that individual is an undeniable reminder. The fact that daylight savings time kicks off this holiday season doesn’t help matters. The limited availability of sunlight and less outdoor time work against your mood and contribute to holiday blues.

Tips to beat the holiday blues this season

Consider your holiday demands. What is necessary? Where can you say no, forego, or delegate?

If pulling off your epic annual yard lighting display is causing you stress or interfering with your ability to maintain healthy lifestyles, ask yourself: is this really worth it? Who am I trying to impress?

If you are feeling anxious or dreading an event or being around certain people, avoid going if it's not important to you. If it is something you must attend, gain support from a loved one you trust and who understands, set a time limit for how long you will be there.

Remember to enjoy spending time with the people you care about. This is the reason for these events anyway, to get together with friends and loved ones. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. This is especially helpful at parties, where spending more time talking to others helps to keep you away from the food!

Try to get some sunshine. Perhaps this is just a 5-10 minute walk on your lunch break. Anything helps with boosting your mood.

Aim to eat healthy and stick to a usual routine as much as possible. Eating healthily will help to avoid feeling down and will keep your energy stable. The sugar rush and subsequent crash that comes along with all of those holiday sweets can send you on an emotional rollercoaster, not to mention your blood sugar.

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