What really causes Holiday Blues? The Christmas edition

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What really causes the Holiday Blues? ‘Holiday blues?’ some may wonder. Yes, holiday blues. You see, some people do have a difficult time amidst all the holiday festivities. Holiday blues is a term that we generally hear prior to, during or after different holiday seasons. It is most often related to the Christmas season, so let’s explore the term in this context.

‘Holiday Blues’ is associated with the feeling of sadness, anxiety, pain and despair that some individuals may experience during the festive season. This may occur even though the individual generally enjoys celebrating the holidays. 

The response that we see as sadness, fatigue, anxiety and despair stem from factors such as conflicts, contradictions and tensions that individuals experience during the season. These, if not dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner may lead to the Holiday Blues.  

Let’s explore some of the factors which may contribute to that feeling called : The Holiday Blues

Perception and Holiday Blues

From the eye of a child, all the glitz and glamour of Christmas is almost always a sight to behold. It brings joy and excitement and to many it is the best time of year. This does not have the equal effect and impact on some individuals for several reasons. 

With all that is going on in the minds of the grown up – deadlines to meet, meals to prepare, errands to run, travel, decoration – it certainly looks and feels a bit different to the eye of some. Although the season may evoke a sense of nostalgia, some adults find it disappointing; with a loss of the charm and enchantment compared to what they had known it to be.

From my Caribbean home, the expression: ‘ I not feeling de Christmas.’ is commonly heard from adults by about mid December.

This sense of let down or unmet expectations may affect the mood of some individuals.

Element of Surprise

Tadaaaaaa! And out pops the gift that you had kinda’ known was coming. You are grateful, you love it but really, in many cases you saw it coming. As an adult your observational skills are heightened and you are more aware. What comes after November? December. And the festivity is on.

As much as you love and enjoy the season, the predictability grabs some of the elements of surprise that used to make everything about the holidays more exciting. 

The predictability factor may play on the mood of some individuals. 

Finances and Holiday Blues

For many, the holidays are a time of financial stress because of the pressure of expectations. You know, it is the gift giving season and you may have to shed some dinero. For others it is the stress related to the lack of finances itself which may hinder them from fulfilling their holiday wishes.

Then what happens if the individual cannot afford to travel to be with friends and family? The latter may compound the financial strain by adding loneliness and disappointment in the mix and contributing to the causes of holiday blues.

This financial strain may lead to stress which may affect the individual’s mood

Reflection and Assessments

For many, the month of December is considered a time of reflection and self assessment. Remember the New Year resolutions? It may not be so for everyone but the Christmas holiday is the ‘How did I do?’ point of these resolutions for a large number of people.

It is also a point of reflection in preparation for new resolutions come January first. Even in cases where individuals do not consciously establish new year resolutions, the set up of our calendar year makes December the default reflection month. Now what if you have not met your own expectations?

The outcome of these self reflections may result in negative feelings for some individuals

Personality and Holiday Blues

Who are you as a person? If we just take as an example the introvert, the extrovert and all that comes in between, we are left with the question: How does the festive season fit into the lives of individuals who exhibit different personalities? Some embrace the season of gatherings, parties and festivities, others may simply loathe the season and barely cope as they count down the days to its departure. 

Sometimes these coping mechanisms are not adequate and feelings of anxiety may surface.

Personal Values

As we go through life we change. Along with physical and mental maturity come shifts in values. The way we perceive things at one stage in life may vary along the way.

For example,  excessive Christmas decorations may rub you a different way once you begin to think of sustainable living. Then there’s religion. Does the celebration really align with your evolving religious philosophy?  

And so contradictions may arise placing the individual in a conflicting mind frame which may lead to negative emotions. 

The Onus is on You

Oh the whiffs of ginger bread, sorrel, ham and cake when you visited the beautifully decorated homes of your aunts, uncles and grandparents as a child. Now you are all grown up and whether you are stressed, tired or not in the mood, the onus is most likely on you to set the holiday spirit. Some enjoy preparing for the season some simply do not!

What about having to travel from one city to another in busy and difficult conditions to spend the holidays with your family – perhaps at a time when you really feel the need to be alone?

Situations like these may lead to holiday fatigue and stress which could convert to the holiday blues.

Unrealistic Expectations

And then comes the expectations of the season. It involves many times having to break established daily habits to fulfill the expectations of the season. I’m thinking those second helpings, reckless spending, lack of sleep, all night parties, excessive drinking along with the abandonment of physical exercise.

For many, this is what the festive season looks like. Sometimes, although we give in to the expectations of the season, we are subconsciously aware that we are going against our personal wishes and expectations. This could creates conflict in the mind of the individual. 

The overwhelming expectations along with the conflict that some experiences evoke, could negatively affect the mood.

Here’s What Really Causes Holiday Blues

From the above we have established that apart from the joy, good tidings and festivities brought about by the holiday celebrations, there are some who suffer during this season. The following can be considered a few of the general causes of the holiday blues:

  • Unfulfilled expectations
  • Contradictions
  • Conflicts
  • Overwhelm
  • Tension
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms
  • Loneliness

Difficulty in managing the above may lead to that general feeling of sadness, anxiety,  loneliness and despair dubbed the Holiday Blues.

Feel Better Tips For Consideration

Take action

  • Acknowledge the feeling: What you feel is real and it is valid.  It is not your mind playing tricks on you. You are trying to cope amidst the hype, demands and unrealistic expectations surrounding you. By acknowledging the feeling you are one step closer to taking action to help yourself.
  • Plan ahead: Now that you are aware of what may cause one to feel this way during the holidays, take action. Planning ahead could mean consciously selecting what activities you will or will not participate in. Planning, for example, could help you see the over-commercialization of the season for what it is and budget wisely.
  • Let others know how you feel: Let family and friends know how you feel. Be empathetic to their wishes as their intentions are generally good however let them know how the season makes you feel and that you are working on yourself. You just may be surprised that many people would welcome the discussion. 
  • Set boundaries: Although you may not wish to totally write off the Christmas celebrations, setting boundaries will allow you to navigate the holiday season with more ease. By setting boundaries you would have established what you are willing to do or partake in and you can better figure out where you will compromise or not. This will help you to establish a sense of balance 

Take care of your physical and mental health

  • Take care of your health: pay attention to what you eat and drink during the season. ‘Tis the season to be merry but remember also that what goes into your body plays a major role in how you feel about yourself. Getting some exercise like walking, skipping or running will help you stay fit and improve your mood. The same goes for sleep. No matter the temptation during the holidays, work on being healthy. 
  • Seek Help: Reach out for some professional help. A trained therapist is able to assist you in acknowledging what is happening to you and assisting you in working through it all. Even through the holiday season, there are online help platforms available in the absence of your personal therapist or even for those who are seeking help for the first time.

The causes of holiday blues may vary from person to person but I am glad that we could explore a few factors among many, which may contribute to that feeling along with some tips on taking care of the blues. May the holidays be beautiful for you!

Let’s connect here: @simply.grethel (Instagram) and Simply Grethel (YouTube)

By Grethel Joseph

Hi! I am Grethel Joseph and I embrace the simple life: living freely, having fun and enjoying nature at home in the Caribbean. Professionally, I studied Psychology and generally work with children in the field of children's recreation. What really matters to me is healthy living, inner peace and happiness for all. I feel fortunate to be living on the island of Dominica, blessed with nature, water, clean air and natural products. Connect with me here and welcome to my island home! One Love Grethel

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