Tips on How to Beat the Holiday Blues 

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The holidays are often referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year,” but if this tends to be a difficult time for you, you’re far from the only one.  

“This is probably my busiest time of the year,” says Michelle Carlin, a Phoenix-based certified nurse practitioner in mental health and adult health and illness, and owner of Monarch Health and Wellness. “Some people I see weekly or twice a week during the holidays.”

Carlin tells us that one of the biggest causes of the holiday blues can be expectations, either for ourselves or of other people. 

“People have unrealistic expectations that they put on themselves and internalize as far as gift giving or what they're able to provide to others. I have quite a few patients who are having anxiety or depressive symptoms, and they put all this internal pressure on themselves to be social, and it ends up backfiring. And they end up shutting down and not participating in any activities,” says Carlin. 

The holidays can also be tough because of relationships. Maybe one of your favorite relatives has recently passed away and being around family reminds you of this loss. It’s also “cuffing season.” If you’ve just split up with your significant other and usually spend the holidays with that person, this time period can remind you of them. And when your former partner doesn’t show up to the holiday functions, you can always rely on one relative to ask about their absence, which can rehash painful memories. The holidays are also a busy time of the year. In addition to many different social obligations, you also have your typical work or school responsibilities. It’s a hectic time for many. 

“It’s just a lot of extra stress financially. Trying to get your workday in order and have all these extra responsibilities that you put on yourself for after work and after family life,” says Carlin. 

Buck Traditions 

But there’s hope. One of the best ways to help combat holiday blues is actually by challenging traditions. Tradition, in many ways, is just another word for “expectation.”

“We talk with our patients about changing traditions. It doesn't have to be the same every year. It's also unrealistic to assume the same things are going to happen each year. So you're setting yourself up for high expectations that you can’t necessarily meet or others can't meet,” says Carlin. 

How to Deal With a Busy Schedule 

If you find that you’re very busy and feeling stressed, try making to-do lists prioritizing the more pressing tasks.

“You have the things you need to do today or things that you can do later so that you can prioritize it and not overwhelm yourself. Because with too many things on your plate, you're overwhelmed, and you are not going to get any of those tasks accomplished,” says Carlin. 

How to Handle the Holidays If You’ve Recently Ended a Relationship 

If you’ve split up with someone recently, try asking another relative to let others know this. And if you don’t want to share this just yet, you can deflect the question.

“I tell patients, you don't need to tell the entire story. You could just say, ‘They weren't able to come today’ and leave it at that,” says Carlin. 

If You’ll Be Flying Solo

Will you be alone for the holidays? Try keeping yourself preoccupied or plan a friend gathering. 

“A lot of times, we recommend trying to get together for Friendsgiving with friends or coworkers, or do some volunteer activities at shelters or different places so that they're not feeling alone on the holiday,” says Carlin. 

How to Handle Pre-Gathering Social Anxiety 

If you’re prone to feeling anxious prior to or during social gatherings or holiday parties, sometimes just getting yourself to the event can help ease your anxiety symptoms.

“Once you get yourself to the actual location, a lot of times your anxiety settles down, and you actually are enjoying yourself versus what you're working up in your head, thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, I'm going to be stressed,’” says Carlin. 

How to Deal With Difficult Relatives 

For many, seeing “difficult” relatives can make for a tough time. If possible, Carlin advises trying to plan to “drop by” a party, so you give yourself a short time window and an out, potentially avoiding that person altogether. If seeing and conversing with your relative is unavoidable, ask them questions about themselves, pull other people into the conversation, or have what Carlin calls an “exit strategy.” 

“If you're starting to get uncomfortable in that interaction, say, ‘Oh, I have another obligation I need to go to’ or something of that nature,” says Carlin. “Set a time limit for yourself to be there too so that you're not stuck being around that negative person all the time.”

Here are six other tips she shared with us on staying healthy during the holidays: 

  1. Make sure you get enough rest. 
  2. Divvy up tasks if you feel burned out or like you don’t have enough time. Maybe your mom can help you out with baking duties. Maybe you can buy a cake instead of making one. 
  3. Ask your family members to tackle other holiday tasks if you feel you have too much on your to-do list. 
  4. Get regular exercise when you’re able to. 
  5. Try to eat healthy if you can. The holidays can be a time of overindulgence. If you do eat plenty of sweets, try to get back on track as soon as possible. 
  6. If you have one, try speaking with a therapist or another mental health provider who can help advise you. 

Reward Yourself 

It’s important to keep in mind that the holidays are just a few weeks long. If you particularly dread going to a holiday event and it’s not something you feel you can skip, Carlin recommends planning a reward for yourself after it’s over as a way to focus on something positive. 

“Come up with a reward,” she says. “Go out and do some kind of self-care day or go out to dinner — something like that — with the people you actually enjoy being around.”

Happy (healthy) holidays, ladies.  

Tags: Family, Friends, holiday season, Self Care, Stress Mangagement

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Written By

Teresa Traverse

Teresa K. Traverse is a writer and editor who has been published in Brides and Bust. Visit for more. See Full Bio

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