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Holiday Blues

Is it normal to experience “holiday blues”? What are the reasons?

The “holiday blues” is a common phenomenon when people feel stressed or overwhelmed nearing the festive season, which starts towards year-end. The absence of close connections may be especially difficult to cope with during the season of gatherings. Societal expectations that surround the festive season and what it "should" feel like may create a sense of burden, as we find ourselves caught up in giving gifts as well as the constant socialising. People may feel a sense of loss and end up becoming withdrawn or isolated. The end of the year is also a time when people look back on their accomplishments in the past year and decide about resolutions for the new year. People who are highly self-critical or already depressed may feel worse during this time if they rate themselves lower in their accomplishments than others would, or blame themselves for not meeting their own or others' expectations.

What can one do to minimise the holiday blues?

Set realistic expectations. You can reframe your beliefs about what the holidays “should” be like. For instance, you don’t need to feel like you must stay in a gathering from start to finish. Tell yourself that it is ok to leave early if you feel uncomfortable. Set firm boundaries. Set clear limits about what you are able and willing to do, whether that means declining some invitations, setting your spending budget or choosing to focus on meaningful experiences rather than expense (e.g. spending time with your loved ones or making your own gifts).

Make connections. Meet up with your friends face-to-face instead of communicating through social media. Volunteering at animal shelters, attending community or faith-based events can be good ways of staying connected with others and giving you a sense of purpose.

Minimise rumination. Going over your problems repeatedly does not lead to clear plans about how to solve them. Focus on the reasons why things did not happen instead of dwelling on your shortcomings. Set small, specific and manageable goals.

Keep your own well-being in mind. Self-care is important, including eating and drinking in moderation (as alcohol can worsen a depressed mood), exercising (shown to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety) and having enough sleep.

Remember that you have a choice. Making a list of reasons why you should or should not engage in certain holiday traditions or gatherings can help to remind yourself that you do have a choice.

How do I know when my holiday blues may have crossed the line, and when professional help is needed? Where should I seek help?

The holiday blues are usually temporary, but it is important to identify when these feelings of low mood have crossed into clinical depression, which is characterised by several of these symptoms – an overall persistent feeling of sadness, loss of interest and pleasure, changes in sleep and appetite, low energy, difficulties with concentration, feelings of worthlessness or guilt and thoughts of ending your life. Clinical depression also impairs daily functioning. For these symptoms, it is often helpful and necessary to seek professional help. You may want to visit a General Practitioner (GP) or your nearest family service centre for more information or to get a referral.

 

 

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