Holiday Blues: Dealing with Feelings

Contributor: Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center clinical team member Heather Wilk, MA, NCC.

hand on a tree fighting Holiday BluesFestive decorations, holiday parties, exchanging gifts, and letting loved ones know just how much we care are what encompasses the holiday season. It is often a period of time where moods are merry and the charitable side of many people comes out, allowing other individuals to benefit from the giving nature of people when it comes time to celebrate the holidays, but what about the holiday blues? There are many individuals who do not find joy in the holiday season and see this time of year as a trigger for sadness, loneliness, despair, and stress.

A Reminder of the Hurtful Past

For some people, the holidays can be a reminder of loved ones lost, relationships that have ended, or highlight the fact that one is without close friends or family members to celebrate.

Additionally, because the holiday season has the potential to cause financial strain (among other stressors), many individuals experience a number of negative emotions that can cause some to await the end of the holidays with baited anticipation.

When a person experiences these types of turmoil, the likelihood for a number of harmful effects increases exponentially.

If an individual is feeling downtrodden, lonely, or under a great deal of pressure during this time of year, conflict among loved ones can increase, health concerns could arise if stress is not managed well, and the likelihood for substance abuse as a means of coping with the holidays goes up.

Additional Problems from Mental Health

Furthermore, if a person is battling a mental health condition or chemical dependency problem, these negative feelings and emotions can cause symptoms to worsen or make it difficult for recovering addicts to resist urges to use drugs and/or alcohol.

What is important to know, however, is that there are things that can be done to combat unpleasant feelings during the holidays so that the positive aspects of this time of year can be enjoyed. Below are suggestions that professionals in the field of mental health recommend when someone is battling the holiday blues:

Have realistic expectations about the holidays:

hand-506754_640Many people set high standards for this time of year, therefore setting realistic expectations can prevent you from feelings of disappointment.

Surround yourself with people that will improve your mood: If you start to feel sad around the holidays, it can be extremely helpful to surround yourself with upbeat people who can bring a smile to your face.

Learn how to effectively manage stress:

Because the holidays can cause a great deal of stress, what with attending celebrations, scrambling to purchase gifts, and food preparation for get-togethers, taking time for yourself and rebooting can help avoid undue stress, of which can cause strife in other areas of a person’s life.

Get outside, get some fresh air, and be active:

Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition that is triggered by the lack of sunlight during the winter months.

By putting an effort into getting outside during day time hours, if your schedule permits it, and being active can greatly improve a person’s mood, especially if Seasonal Affective Disorder is the culprit for poor mood.

Don’t forget to eat well:

The holidays are often associated with one of life’s best indulgences – good food. While it’s perfectly fine to indulge in that extra hors d’oeuvre or sneak that extra cookie, try not to forget the importance of good nutrition. By eating well, depression symptoms can be somewhat helped.

What If Things Get Worse?

a person's eye while battling Holiday BluesAdhering to the aforementioned tips can greatly help someone if the holiday blues seem apparent, but what can be done if depression symptoms worsen during the holidays, are more severe because of undiagnosed clinical depression, or fail to dissipate once the holidays have come to a close?

What is a person to do if the holiday blues cause other problematic behaviors? If you notice that depressed feelings are a regular part of your life or become worse during the holidays, there is no better time than the present to seek out mental health treatment.

The sooner care is received, the better able a person will be in managing symptoms of depression. While this time of year can make finding time for treatment difficult, there is a great deal of value in talking about your feelings with someone who will listen and is trained to help sufferers of mental health disorders manage distressing symptoms.

Holiday Blues are Common

It has been estimated that 20% of people will grapple with symptoms synonymous with depression during the holiday season. Most, if not all, of these individuals could benefit from mental healthcare so that the holidays can be enjoyed without the meddling symptoms of depression.

Additionally, if depression is causing a person to use or abuse drugs or alcohol, treatment may be even more warranted as soon as possible. Moreover, if you are already engaged in treatment, it is imperative that you continue to attend counseling sessions and/or support groups and remain compliant with treatment recommendations from your provider.

The holiday blues can creep up on anyone and make it more difficult to utilize coping skills or abstain from substance use or abuse if chemical dependency concerns are a factor in your life.

It’s easy to miss a session or group or two, however, nothing can be lost when continuing to receive support that can help you stay on track towards living the life you deserve.

Addressing The Holiday Blues Is Necessary

hand-299675_640Failing to address the issues and feelings associated with the holiday blues or clinical depression could render a number of consequences. Substance abuse, conflict with loved ones, and a decline in a person’s overall physical health are common side effects of untreated depression.

So if you or a loved is suffering from the holiday blues or other concerns that can ensue as a result, such as substance abuse, mental health care that is received during and continued after the holidays can make celebrating the holidays or other festive times much more gratifying.

Contributor: “Holiday Blues: Dealing with Feelings” was written by Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center clinical team member Heather Wilk, MA, NCC. Heather has several years of experience working in the treatment field as a clinical therapist and has her Master’s degree in Community Counseling from Concordia University – Chicago.

About Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center:

With care that is focused on treating the whole person, Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center is an outstanding provider of residential treatment services for men and women who are struggling with chemical dependency concerns and co-occurring mental health conditions. Through the use of evidence-based medical interventions and holistic therapeutic approaches, the staff at Blue Ridge, of which is comprised of trained medical staff, experienced mental health professionals, and qualified addiction specialists, administers care with the utmost compassion and dedication to meet the needs of all who come for care.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on January 1, 2015
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 4, 2021
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