For most people, the holiday season means festive decorations, cheery moods, lots of good food and holiday gatherings with friends and family.

For some, the holidays can mean depression, sadness, loneliness, stress or fatigue; all more commonly known as the “holiday blues.”


Some people will overindulge in food and alcohol. Some will max out their credit cards. Others will become physically sick, while still others will have to cope with increased pressure to get everything done.

Many factors can cause the stressed, depressed, agitated, fatigued, down and out, dread and bad feelings people can experience over the holidays. To cope and find effective resolution of the holiday blues, its important to know what they are about for you. Everyone’s experience is different–and there’s no universal solution or quick fix. What is depressing or stressful for one individual may not be for someone else, and what works for one person may not work for another.

One helpful thing to do is to pay attention to your specific issues and circumstances. Self-awareness and how and what you pay attention to is important. Holiday blues can be so obvious–people usually tend to focus either on how bad they’re feeling, or focus energy on avoiding painful or negative feelings. Unfortunately, neither tactic really helps to resolve the issues, and can actually make things worse. Take an honest look at where you are and how you’re feeling and acknowledge the underlying issues.

Remember that the painful/negative feelings are not the core of the problem but rather symptoms of a deeper problem. You are reacting to something that doesn’t feel right inside and you haven’t been able to fix or resolve it yet. It could be something from the past or something happening in your world, or something within you, such as your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes, or some combination of internal and external factors. Make an effort to shift your perceptions–look beyond the bad feelings, pay attention, be aware of what you’re reacting to. Solutions to the apparent symptoms may become easier to see once the underlying issues or real problems are identified and acknowledged.

The reasons for feeling blue around the holidays are numerous. They range from fatigue — a result of all of the increased holiday activity — to financial limitations and family tensions. One of the most common causes of holiday depression is unrealistic expectations.

People often hold on to what they remember as an ideal holiday from years gone by, and are unable to reproduce it. There are also expectations around the holidays that ‘everything must be perfect’, and perfection is, of course, mostly unobtainable.

Be honest and realistic with yourself about what you can do during the holiday season. Set realistic goals. If your holiday plans require you to run between the malls and and stores, shopping and going to parties until you are exhausted, then staying up all night to wrap presents, perhaps your plans aren’t realistic. Give yourself a break, pace yourself and get enough rest so you won’t be grouchy.

Other factors that can contribute to feelings of sadness around the holidays are memories of deceased loved ones and strained family dynamics. Creating family traditions is one way to bring family members closer together.

Common underlying issues that are “aggravated” by the Holiday Season:

  • Unresolved Grief
  • Family of Origin Issues
  • Disappointment about current circumstances
  • Contrast between expectation or image of holiday joy & reality of present life
  • Be aware of what triggers your emotions
  • Be real, be where you are

Best wishes to you this 2009 Holiday Season. If you find yourself really stressed and feeling down or overwhelmed, please don’t hesitate to give us a call and make an appointment. Counseling and therapy can help.


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