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Holiday Blues - Feeling Sad, Lonely or Depressed During the Holidays?

Updated on November 15, 2012

What To Do When Your Days Aren't Merry and Bright

For some people the holiday season can be a very difficult time time of year. It is a time of sadness and loneliness, a time of self-evaluation and reflecting about the past and a time of anxiety about the future year.

For many people instead of the holidays being a time when "the days are merry and bright," they are more likely to be experiencing the blues for many different reasons. Those who have lost loved ones or who are separated from loved ones at the holidays can find it to be a very blue time.

In addition with the current state of the economy and unemployment rates, many people are likely to be feeling the financial blues.

Take a look at and learn a bit more about the "Holiday Blues." With a bit of understanding about this common emotional state, your holidays might be a little less blues.

The material for this page is from many of the articles and presentations that I have give over the years about surviving the Holiday Blues including the material in the Holiday Blues Brochure created as an online resource.

Blue Christmas Ornament modified from Lusi's Last Christmas.

Winter Icicle Blues

Icicles from Microsoft Clipart

Vote on the Holiday Blues

Have you ever felt blue at the Holidays?

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Defining Holiday Blues

Holiday Blues can be defined as

A feeling of sadness, loneliness, depression and even anxiety that often occur in and around the holiday season.

Image by biala9
Image by biala9

What are the Holiday Blues?

One definition for the Holidays Blues is

  • "a feeling of sadness, loneliness, depression and even anxiety that often occur in and around the holiday season."
It is very helpful for people to realize, especially when feeling blue, that while the Holiday Blues can be emotional, intense and upsetting, but they tend to be short-term lasting at the most about 2 weeks.

The Blues end and people generally get better once the holiday season is over and get back into their normal daily routine.

Hole in the Heart by biala9

Why People Feel Blue During the Holidays

Factors that Contribute to the Blues

There are many different reasons that people feel blue during the holidays and many of different factors that can make the holiday season a time that leaves people feeling blue.

Factors contributing to the blues include:

  1. Increased stress and anxiety
  2. Increased financial pressures
  3. Fatigue
  4. Unrealistic expectations
  5. Inability to be with family
  6. Memories of past holiday celebrations
  7. Over commercialization
  8. Change in diet
  9. Change in daily routines

Blue Christmas - Damian McGinty from Glee

The audio version of Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas" from Damian McGinty. Rory (Damian) is feeling a bit blue not being home with his family at Christmas. From OnlineMusicGlee.

Who is at risk?

Feeling Blue this Winter?

Boy in Snow by Sheldizle

Who experiences the Blues?

People who have had lost a loved one, experienced financial setbacks or are separated from their loved ones at the holidays are often at risk for feeling the blues.

Those who might be at risk for feeling blue at the holidays include:

  1. Someone who has a death in the family
  2. Someone who has experienced financial setbacks at the holidays
  3. Someone who is separated from loved ones at the holidays with work, military obligations or other reasons
  4. Someone who has experienced other losses - moving, recent difficult medical diagnosis
  5. Someone who has experienced a change in lifestyle - getting married, getting divorced, new baby
  6. Someone who tends to be depressed, stressed, anxious

Those Who Feel Blue

People who have had lost a loved one, experienced work or financial setbacks, or are separated from their loved ones at the holidays are at risk for feeling the blues.

Recognizing the Blues

How can I recognize the Blues?

The Holiday Blues often present with:

  • Headache
  • An inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite that cause either weight loss or gain
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
  • Diminished ability to think clearly or concentrate
  • Decreased interest in activities that usually are enjoyable, such as: food, sex, work, friends, hobbies and entertainment.

Coping with the Blues

Basic Ways of Coping with the Holiday Blues

For anyone feeling blue during the holidays can follow some very basic, common sense steps to help in coping with the blues.

  1. Take things one day at a time and if need be one hour at a time.
  2. Try to maintain a normal routine. Keep doing your normal daily activities.
  3. Get enough sleep or at least enough rest.
  4. Regular exercise, even walking, helps relieve stress, tension and improve moods.
  5. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Limit high calorie foods and junk food.
  6. Avoid using alcohol, medications or other drugs to mask the pain.
  7. Do those activities or things and be with the people that comfort, sustain, nourish and recharge you.
  8. Remember the healthy coping strategies you have used in the past to survive challenges. Draw on these strengths again.

Get Your REST Helps in Handling the Holiday Blues

One of the best ways to handle the Holidays and cope with the holiday distress is to Remember to get your R-E-S-T:

  • Reasonable expectations and goals.

    Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Get plenty of rest and relaxation.

  • Exercise daily.

    Eat and drink in moderation. Enjoy free activities.

  • Simplify to relieve stress.

    Set a budget for social activities and gifts. Simple gifts can still bring happiness.

  • Time to relax and remember.

    Spend time with caring, supportive people. Keep in mind that traditions can be changed.

Understanding the Blues or the Holiday Blues

Holiday Blues - Pyschologist's Advice

Connections psychologist Ryan Denney, gives tips to help cope with depression and sadness during the holidays from the HattiesburgClinic.

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Kindle Books on Holiday Grief

Kindle Books available on Holiday Grief.

Beating the Holiday Blues - Video

Three expert faculty members from Yale look at the differences between holiday blues and clinical depression in addition to offering several ways of beating the holiday blues.

How to Cope with Holiday Depression - Video Series

iVillage Expert Rachel Blackston, M.A., M.Ed. a mental health counselor, looks at various different aspects of Holiday Depression.

Good News on the Blues

The Holiday Blues are intense, emotional and upsetting, but they also tend to be short-term lasting around two weeks.

Other Causes of the Holiday Blues

What else might the Blues be?

During the holidays there are several different things that people can be feeling or experiencing. People who are feeling excessive stress, anxiety, grief or depression may benefit from talking with a professional.

  1. Holiday Blues
  2. Stress
  3. Anxiety
  4. Grief
  5. SAD - Seasonal Affect Disorder
  6. Depression

More Lenses on Coping with Grief

Grief is one of the reasons that people are blue at the holiday. Here are a few more resources on coping with different types of grief.

How to Cope with Loss and Grief Healthy Coping Strategies
When faced with a loss, crisis or life-changing event, you are suddenly thrust into an unfamiliar world, one that can be frightening and unsettling. Knowing...

Loss, Grief and Bereavement
Loss is the disappearance of something cherished, often the death of a person, loss of a relationship, loss of a job or loss of health. Grief is the entire r...

Help a Child Cope with Loss and Grief
Children and adolescents are not immune to facing loss, death, dying and grief; they encounter loss and will experience a grief response. Much as we, as pare...

When Families Grieve with Katie Couric and Elmo
Katie Couric, Elmo and his cousin Jesse along with many of the other Sesame Street favorites are teaming up to help children grieving the death of a loved on...

Grief in the Workplace
Much as we'd like it to be different, grief and the grieving heart do not take a break when you go to work. Someone grieving a loss still has to keep on goin...

Grief in the NICU
When my youngest daughter was unexpected admitted to the NICU soon after birth I found myself with a new title. In addition to being a physician, wife and m...

Remembering a Pet Who has Died
While growing up our family had four different mixed-breed dogs at different times. "The Boys" as we called them were Musti, Ruska, Laku and Ritsi;...

Pet Hospice
Pet Hospice or veterinary hospice is an alternative care plan for animals nearing the end of life. Hospice does not work on curing disease, instead the focus...

Caregiver Grief
Grief is important part of the caregiver experience that is often overlooked. According to Grief expert Kenneth Doka, PhD "Grief is a reaction to a los...

Journey of Hearts - Grief, Loss & Transitions
Journey of Hearts was launched in the Fall of 1997 as "a Healing Place in CyberSpace." It was the as the first and only physician sponsored webs...

When to Be Concerned about the Blues

Feeling Depressed?

Image by torli
Image by torli

Brown eyed girl by Torli

Getting Professional Help for the Blues

Anyone who is experiencing the "blues" consistently over a period of several weeks (more than 2 weeks) should seek professional help.

Some of the people that can be contacted to help someone feeling more than the blues include: physicians, primary care providers, mental health care providers, counselors, clergy, crisis lines, support groups, or mental health centers.

Talking with a professional or taking a mental health screening test can help assess whether it's the "blues" or depression.

Image Source: Modified Microsoft Image.

When to Get Help

Anyone who experiences the Holiday Blues constantly for more than 2 weeks should seek professional help.

When to Be Concerned

You should be concerned if you or a love one is:

  1. Constantly sad, anxious, or in an empty mood
  2. Sleeping too much or too little
  3. Having insomnia middle-of-the night or early morning waking
  4. Experiencing a change in appetite either reduced or increased.
  5. Having a loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
  6. More irritable or restless
  7. Experiencing difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  8. More Fatigued or having a loss of energy
  9. Feeling inappropriate guilt, hopelessness or worthlessness
  10. Experiencing thoughts of death or suicide

    ** Anyone with suicidal thoughts or suicidal ideation needs to seek immediate care with their physician, crisis line or the nearest hospital emergency department.**

Winter Lights Blues

Image by Boogy_man
Image by Boogy_man

Winter Lights by Boogy_man

Getting Rid of the Blues

One way to handle the holiday blues is to do something nice for someone else.

How to feel less blue during the Holidays

There are several things that can help in making it easier to manage the blues.

  1. Determine your priorities and establish realistic goals for the holidays.
  2. Delegate some responsibilities to others.
  3. Take time for yourself.
  4. Minimize financial stressors by setting a budget and sticking to it.
  5. Enjoy free holiday activities.
  6. Think about giving a free gift from your heart. Your time or your presence.
  7. Be around supportive people.
  8. Volunteer and help someone else.
  9. Create a New Holiday Tradition.
  10. Find a new place or a new way to celebrate.

More Resources on the Holiday Blues

More articles on Coping with the Blues.

Help Coping with the Holiday Blues

This brochure on "Holiday Blues at the Holidays" is one that I created several years ago for as a resource for an online holiday event and have used it since.

The brochure has information for anyone feeling a bit blue during the holiday season.

Much of the information on this page was taken from this brochure and other articles that I have written on the Holiday Blues.

You can download PDF file of the brochure to print have it as an actual brochure as a resource or to give to someone that might need it.

Download the brochure by following the link below.

Holiday Blues Brochure

A brochure that I made several years ago as a downloadable resources to help people cope with the blues.

Holiday Blues Do End

Melting the Winter Icicle Blues

Image by bewinca
Image by bewinca

Icicles by Bewinca

Holiday Blues End

The Holiday Blues end and people generally get better once the holiday season is over and they get back into a normal daily routine.

Image by
Image by

Remember that the Blues are Short Term

The Holiday Blues are often emotional, intense and upsetting when being experiences.

The good news is that they tend to be short-term, lasting at the most around two weeks.

One way to shorten the holiday blues is to do something nice for someone else and to do things to get you into the holiday spirit.

The Blues end and people generally get better once the holiday season is over and they get back into a normal daily routine.

Blue Snowflakes by rknds

Music to Lift the Holiday Spirits

One of my best antidotes for feeling blue is listening to uplifting and inspiring music. These are some of my favorite holiday songs and albums.

Top Christmas Albums for 2012
Christmas is a time for music where people to curl up with a warm cup of hot cocoa and listen to their favorite Christmas songs, classic Christmas songs or m...

Have a Josh Groban Christmas
Who would have guessed that a Christmas album by a contemporary singer would become the best selling album of 2007, but then Josh Groban is no ordinary conte...

Let It Snow
The bouncy winter snow song, "Let it Snow" has been around since the 1940s. Because of the snowy lyrics, "Let It Snow" is commonly thoug...

My Grown Up Christmas List
This beautiful, heart-touching Christmas song finally started being recognized after a new version was released in 2010 by the rising star Charice. She perfo...

Glee Christmas Album - Volume 2
Christmas came early this year with the release of a new Christmas Album from Glee. I normally don't listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, but ...

Merry Christmas Darling
The Christmas song Merry Christmas Darling was originally released in 1970 by the Carpenters. The song was written by Richard Carpenter and Frank Pooler and ...

Peace on Earth / Little Drummer Boy
Peace on Earth / The Little Drummer Boy is one of my all time favorite contemporary Christmas Song and remains so year after year. The song comes from an Bi...

Do They Know It's Christmas - 2011
In 2011, a Christmas classic, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" that has raised millions for famine relief in Africa, was re-recorded by Glee, as part...

Benefits Donors Choose

This lens benefits Donors Choose, an organization dedicated to addressing the scarcity and inequitable distribution of learning materials and experiences in our public schools.

What do you think about the Holiday Blues?

Comment on the Holiday Blues

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    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @imagelist lm: Thank you.

    • imagelist lm profile image

      imagelist lm 4 years ago

      great tips but far from conclusive. great lens...

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @cjbmeb14 lm: That's the post holiday let down time.

    • cjbmeb14 lm profile image

      cjbmeb14 lm 4 years ago

      I think the worst period is about halfway through January.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @darciefrench lm: Great idea. Thank you for sharing the resource.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 4 years ago

      My hubby is a member of AA and today they were talking about feeling lonely during the holidays. The Alano Club was mentioned as having many events for folks looking for unconditional love and support during the season.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @nifwlseirff: I hope you will create some new traditions for celebrating your holidays and create new memories.

    • profile image

      nifwlseirff 4 years ago

      For me, the holidays (Christmas and Easter) are often a trigger to look back into my unhappy childhood. And this year is going to be particularly difficult with multiple deaths in the family and now living on the other side of the world.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @Scarlettohairy: As I've gotten older I focus more on the giving aspect of the holidays and expect less.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I think for me having unrealistic expectations (in general) is cause for the blues. Not expecting things from anyone but yourself is key to good mental health.

    • profile image

      healthylivingideas 5 years ago

      I live in the southern hemisphere where everybody goes to the beach at Christmas time but I still used to find Christmas one of the most difficult times of the year to deal with depression.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      What an important topic! Like so many of us in northern climates, I know how the winter-time reality of Seasonal Affect(ive) Disorder can make it tough to shake off the Holiday Blues and exacerbate other depressions. Exercise does help with SAD, I've found, especially if it's outdoor exercise in daylight hours.

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 5 years ago

      You've done a great job of gathering resources and information for the holiday blues. Nice. Thanks.

    • Iain84 profile image

      Iain84 5 years ago

      the Winter Blues sucks. Next year I've decided to go to Mexico! I don't think they actually have a winter there!

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Great lens on a sensitive topic. From personal experience I know the holidays can be really difficult the first year after a beloved family member has passed on. It can be difficult to start up new traditions or ways of remembering that person without getting the blues. ~blessed!~

    • bernie74 lm profile image

      bernie74 lm 5 years ago

      What a wonderful Lens,

      Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Recommended this lens at Top Ten Christmas Gifts for Scrooge and Grinch

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Comfortdoc, your do live up to your name! This is a crucial topic that few discuss yet so many need. The holidays after a divorce taught me first hand how raw these feelings can be for some, comfort and joy needed desperately. 5 * s!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Beautiful! I have serious holiday blues, I live alone and my kids have flown. I've decided the best way for me to cope is to ignore the holidays, all of them. I just go on with my life without them. I think I may have no Thanksgiving this year, no Hannukah ... but I'll fly to visit my daughter on Christmas (avoiding the day by traveling) and stay with her for my birthday (another holiday I prefer to ignore). With a life-long tendency towards depression, keeping busy and creative is my best defense - and also, realizing that advertisers have built up an image of perfect holiday bliss that is hard for real mortals to match. Thanks for the tips.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Nice lens but blues are nothing compared to the plight of many who have nothing and no time to be blue. Sorry but this smacks of insecure Americanism. We have no right to feel blue as long as we have health, some food inside us and hopefully a dry roof, so many do not have any one of these basic requirements. let us hope Obama changes the planet for the greater good. Happy Xmas to you!

    • giacombs-ramirez profile image

      gia combs-ramirez 8 years ago from Montana

      Great lens! You truly are "comfortdoc." For some reason, paying attention to the stars and the beauty of the night really lifts my spirits. Once as I was gazing at the stars, someone started playing "Silent Night" on their trumpet and the notes rang out in the clear,crisp air. I use that as a reference point for other holidays that aren't quite as "miraculous."

    • profile image

      Joan4 8 years ago

      So many suffer through the holidays -- this is a great lens! Holidays are extremely difficult after the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or even a move to a new location. I hope many people who need this information read and are comforted.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I am featuring this lens on my Thanksgiving Prayer. Thank you.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 9 years ago from USA

      Thank you for adding this great lens to the Best Christmas Ever group!

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 9 years ago

      Some of my friends have the Christmas blues and that is why I generally organize a Christmas party at home. Just hope to give them some fun.

      5 stars for your lens!

      Prosperity66

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 9 years ago from USA

      Wonderful information here. Just what I needed!

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