What is The Holiday Blues? Is it Different From Seasonal Affective Disorder? 

Woman enjoying winter

What is The Holiday Blues? Is it Different From Seasonal Affective Disorder? 

For many people, the holiday season is a time to celebrate the winter season’s holidays with loved ones around candlelight, warmly lit places, and Christmas lights. But an equal number of people also experience sadness, depression, anxiety, and other emotions during this time of the year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it’s referred to as the holiday blues. 

What is The Holiday Blues? Is it Different From Seasonal Affective Disorder? 

The holiday blues are temporary feelings of anxiety and depression during the holidays. These feelings occur due to unrealistic expectations, extra stress, and memories of the previous seasons. Fatigue, loneliness, sadness, and a sense of loss are common symptoms of the holiday blues, and it shows a deeper reality than the advertised Hallmark cards like to show. 

In reality, many people struggle around the holiday season. Blissful holiday cheer is replaced with worries and fears about the coming holidays, and this season is filled with unrealistic expectations about what to do during the coldest months. Spending loads of money, managing time with family members, and maintaining an overtly positive outlook are often impossible. Due to these expectations, many people are forced to hide the traumatic events they’ve experienced or the sadness they feel overall, to maintain the image of the holidays, resulting in an unhealthy relationship with the holidays, only bringing conflict in its wake. 

An important note is that the holiday blues isn’t a seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder occurs due to a person’s biology and is a psychological condition, while the holiday blues is specifically situational and time-limited. SAD brings out many physical and psychological symptoms, such as low energy, difficulty sleeping, and irritability. At the same time, the holiday blues revolves around sadness and purely psychological memories. 

How Your Therapist Can Help You During the Holiday Blues

Your therapist can help you during your most profound symptoms of the holiday blues by giving you both an outlet and providing ways of managing your feelings about the holidays. 

  • Your Emotions Are Valid: Understanding that your emotions and thoughts are valid and important is the first step towards addressing them. By acknowledging your feelings, you can learn ways to reduce stress, worry, and fear associated with the holidays. 
  • Plan Ahead For the Season: For those who worry about family get together and holiday parties, planning ahead can help reduce the stress that comes with the holiday blues. 
  • Find Compassion Towards Others: Finding compassion means giving parts of yourself that are generous, kind, and truly yours. The commercialized aspects of the season should not be the focus, but taking the time to be kind to others can be an excellent example of how to combat the holiday blues. 
  • Look For Joy in Bleak Times: Not all family situations look the same, and for families faced with struggles, it can be hard to find joy when faced with illness, death, and financial hardship. Joy can come from even the darkest of places, and it takes appreciating the little things, such as family, love, and home, to see it. 

Your therapist can help you through the holiday blues – contact your local therapist and see how they can help you through the season and bring joy back to your life. 

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April is the founder of Prestige Mental Health and is a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC) who is qualified to practice primary care and psychiatry. She is passionate about providing quality, compassionate, and comprehensive mental health services to children, adolescents, and adults. April specializes in psychiatric illnesses including but not limited to depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, PTSD/trauma, bipolar, and schizophrenia.