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Stress, Mood Changes, and Holiday Time

Updated: May 13, 2023

Take Away:

Holiday time is just around the corner, and for some people that means singing carols, giving gifts, and eating large amounts of fat and sugar at holiday meals with family and friends. However, the holidays are hard and often are a complex time for many people. On one hand, there may be a sense of joy in the air, while on the other hand, sorrow and grief may be present as a result of loss or a dysfunctional family dynamic. If you are nervous, sad, or stressed and not wanting to be around people this upcoming holiday season, keep reading this guide to uncover some tips for getting through the holidays.


Table of Contents:

  1. Holiday Time Depression

  2. Coping skills for dealing with family drama during the holidays

  3. How to get through the holidays after a loss

  4. It's the holiday season: Ways to manage holiday stress


Holiday Time Depression

woman sitting with back against a brick wall with a Christmas tree behind her.
Not Wanting To Be Around People

During this time of year, radio and tv ads would have us believe we should all feel merry and bright. Sadly, that's not always the case. According to the National Institute of Health, many people experience depression during the holiday season. Some of the most common reasons people experience depression during this time of the year are:

  • Financial hardship- This is the season to be jolly, unless your bank account is overdrawn and your credit cards are maxed out. Not having a budget to buy loved ones gifts can feel devastating.

  • Stress- It's easy to become overwhelmed from the added stress of shopping, planning, and travel.

  • Grief and loneliness- Many people feel incredibly lonely during the holidays. Whether it's from being single, recently divorced, or having just lost a loved one, the holidays are often a reminder of what we don't have but wish we did.

If you can relate and are looking for some relief, here are some ways you can cope with depression during the holidays.

  • Feel your feelings- If you are grieving a loss, it's important that you're honest about your feelings. Your instinct may be to put on a brave face for friends and family, but forcing yourself to be happy for the sake of others will only make matters worse. Sadness and grief are a part of life, no matter the season, and it is 100% okay for you to feel your feelings.

  • Give something besides money- If a lack of finances is the primary source of your mood, look for other ways you can give to others. At the end of the day, thoughtful gifts from your heart will leave the greatest lasting impression.

  • Focus on self-care- It's important that you care for yourself during the holidays. Eat right, drink water, exercise, and get plenty of rest. While these steps are important for everyone throughout the entire year, they are particularly important for those suffering from depression during the holidays.

  • Seek help- Depression is not to be taken lightly. If your depression has lingered, is getting worse, or you're having suicidal thoughts, it is imperative that you seek help from a professional. A qualified professional will be able to help you navigate your overwhelming emotions and offer tools to manage symptoms.


Coping Skills for Dealing with Family Drama During the Holidays

For many of us, spending time with family during the holidays is something straight out of a Hallmark movie and for others, the holidays with family are scarier than Halloween. From the stress of traveling, family members who are unable to be in the same room without fighting, to the pressure of buying and wrapping gifts. The holidays can be stressful! While you cannot stop family drama from occurring, there are some simple and effective ways you can deal with it:

3 pairs of hands on a table holding onto a green present tied with a red bow. The table is filled with Christmas decorations
Holidays Are Hard

  • Have realistic expectations- So much of the pain of the holidays comes from having unrealistic expectations. Do not set yourself up for disappointment. Acknowledge beforehand that you and your family are human and that there may be those moments that aren't very pleasant and that's okay. Recognize it, own it, and you'll find you won't get as upset.

  • Set boundaries- Time spent with families during the holidays can also trigger us to feel like children all over again, but you are an adult now and you can set boundaries to protect your mental health. Determine before you go what you will tolerate and what you will not. This can be for simple things like meal times, sleeping accommodations, and topics of discussion you will engage in.

  • Use good judgement- When the holiday drama sets in, it's easy to want to drink more or eat more processed foods; however, in large amounts, alcohol and processed sugars impair our mood and judgement. Do your best to not overindulge.


How to Get Through the Holidays After a Loss

woman wearing a Santa hat that covers most of her face half of her nose and her mouth is showing
Holiday Time

For many people, the holidays are about spending time with loved ones, but for those who have suffered a recent loss, the holidays can be painful and isolating. Here are some ways you can cope with the holidays after a loss:

  • Recognize you are not alone- It's easy to feel as though you are the only one experiencing great pain during the holiday season. Everywhere you turn, people seem to be happy, putting up decorations, buying gifts, and making holiday plans. It's important to recognize the truth right now, and that is that you are not alone.

  • Honor your pain- No one expects you to feel joyful and in the holiday mood right now, so don't feel as though you must pretend for the sake of others. It's important that you honor whatever emotions you may be experiencing, whether it's sadness, anger, regret, or a combination.

  • Take your time- The holidays are usually a busy time for people. There is much to accomplish and many events to host and attend. You do not have to keep your normal schedule this year. Take the time you need. If you don't feel like attending many events this year, that is fine people will understand.

  • Help others in need- One of the worst parts about losing a loved one is feeling that we no longer have any control over our lives. Loss makes us feel helpless. Connecting with others who are hurting, can often be a salve on our hearts as well.

If you have children, it's important to understand that they are looking to you right now to know what life will be like from now on. Though you may not feel like celebrating the holidays, doing so helps your child know that life does go on and that there is space in your life to feel joy along with sadness.


It's the Holiday Season: Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

woman sitting with both hands on her head looking sad her elbows are on a table surrounded by gifts
It's The Holiday Season

The holidays are one of the most stressful times of the year. Between shopping, decorating, and keeping your drunk uncle away from your single friend, it's enough to pull your hair out. If you tend to get a little stressed over the holidays, here are some tips to help you stay cool, calm, and collected:

  • Embrace flaws- No matter how hard you try to have the perfect holiday it's simply not going to happen. Accept imperfections, embrace reality, and just focus on connecting with loved ones.

  • Be kind- Most of the people you will come in contact with will also be stressed. Some may even feel sad and depressed. Since you can't know what's in other people's hearts and minds, focus on controlling your own and show kindness. You'll be surprised how you can completely touch another's heart with just a smile or thoughtful act.

  • Practice self-care- Often, when we feel stressed, our good habits go right out of the window. Unhealthy foods, too much alcohol and not enough sleep will only exacerbate the situation. So be sure to treat yourself well and take care of your health during this time.

  • Speak with someone- If you are having a hard time dealing with stress, it's a good idea to talk with someone. This could be a friend, family member, or therapist. Often, just having someone else hear us and validate our feelings can help relieve stress. If you're interested in exploring therapy, please reach out to me. I'd love to help your holidays be warm and merry or at least tolerable.

Holidays Are Hard! Get Help with Coping During the Holidays!

Woman smiling wearing a blue dress with red spots
Anxiety Therapist in Houston

If you are in Houston, New York, or California and you would like to explore treatment options for tools to help you navigate the awkward and tense moments during the upcoming holidays, please contact me and schedule a free consultation today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

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