Do you have the holiday blues?

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Do you have the holiday blues?

For many people the holiday season is not always the most wonderful time of the year.

While “holiday depression” is not a clinical diagnosis, the stress, anxiety, and sadness of the season can contribute to a more long-term condition, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In most cases the holiday blues are temporary, but can be serious if they last for more than two weeks, leading to clinical anxiety and/or depression.

According to the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season, which can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. In a separate survey, many of those with a mental illness said their condition becomes “a lot” worse or “somewhat” worse during the holidays.

The holiday blues can stem from a variety of sources, such as current events, personal grief, loneliness, illnesses, economic concerns, separation from family members, and relationship issues like separation or divorce.

These feelings can be easily heightened by stressors, many of which occur primarily during the holiday season. Stressors unique to the holidays can include:

  • Spending more money than usual (or feeling pressured to do so)
  • Having more social or family obligations than usual
  • Feeling pressure to maintain happiness or be in “the holiday spirit”
  • Having more opportunities to eat, drink, and otherwise indulge
  • Having more intense travel plans, accompanied by worries about being on time, etc

NAMI offers the following tips for avoiding the holiday blues:

  • Stick to normal routines as much as possible
  • Get enough sleep
  • Take time for yourself
  • Eat and drink in moderation
  • Get exercise
  • Set reasonable goals and expectations for holiday activities
  • Make a to-do list
  • Set a budget for holiday activities
  • Listen to music or find other ways to relax

Talking to a close family member or a friend is a great way to alleviate feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. If no one is available, seek help from a behavioral health professional.