Every person has an idea of what the perfect holiday season looks like for them, but too often we push ourselves to reach this ideal and are disappointed when we fall short. The feeling of sadness, loneliness, anxiety or depression in and around the holiday season is known as “the holiday blues.” The stress of achieving perfection, even if it’s for good reason, can wear us out even before the holidays are over and last until the new year.
There are many potential stressors during the holiday season that can make it less than ideal, but if we accept that nothing will be perfect and plan for how to manage our expectations, it can still be a positive experience. To help prevent the holiday blues this year, consider the following tips:
• Practice self-care – Schedule time for yourself during the season. Give yourself time to relax, reflect or celebrate the season in whatever way you want. Make yourself a priority.
• Be realistic – Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by expecting the holidays to be perfect. Life isn’t perfect. A good-enough celebration can still be full of what you love. If you need a break this year, a good plan may be to spend more time alone and taking care of yourself.
• Make room for feelings – If you’ve lost someone this year or if the holiday season is difficult, allow yourself to grieve and feel. Don’t feel pressured to feel only happiness during this time when you may have conflicting feelings.
Many parents put pressure on themselves to make the holidays magical for their children. Kids may have expectations for the kinds of gifts they want, but they are more likely to remember the moments you spent together and the holiday traditions you enjoy as a family more than anything else. The holiday blues aren’t as common in kids because they don’t feel the same burden of making things perfect. Instead, children may start to get bored and anxious to get back to school and their everyday schedule.
If you do get the holiday blues, getting back into your daily routine normally helps you move on and get back on track. For some, the holiday blues can lead to depression that doesn’t go away. If you experience these symptoms and they do not dissipate once you return to a normal routine, reach out to a counselor, psychiatrist or behavioral health specialist for help.
The exceptional team of behavioral health experts within the Cone Health network can counsel parents and families on ways to prevent and cope with excessive stress or blues/sadness that often go hand in hand with the holiday season.
Kim Hoover, MD, is a psychiatrist who is board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry with Cone Health Outpatient Behavioral Health and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. Hoover completed medical school at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She completed her residency in psychiatry at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and her fellowship in child/adolescent psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.