The holidays are most often viewed as a time when people should be happy, rejoicing in a season of giving, togetherness, and celebration. However, for some people, this time of the year can be incredibly painful. With it, comes a period of sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Feelings of sadness that last during the holiday season have come to be referred to as the “Holiday Blues.” While this may not be a clinical term, these feelings have a very real impact on one’s ability to function normally and in a healthy way.

Even people who love the holidays can experience these “holiday blues”, which make these feelings much more common than many people think. People often have high hopes for the season. The holidays are extremely over-commercialized and this creates a level of expectations where people feel a pressure to experience non-stop joy and holiday cheer. The holidays then mark an impending new year, so people may begin to reflect on the past year and experience feeling of regret or failure if specific goals or things on their “to do list” were not accomplished.

The holidays are a time of very high emotions and demands, which often leave a lot of people feeling stressed and exhausted. According to a survey by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), “64% of people with an existing mental illness reported that the holidays made their condition worse.” Unfortunately, some people will turn to unhealthy coping methods to handle the sadness and stress of the holidays. Common coping methods include excessive drinking, overeating, and sleeping more than normal.

It is very important to understand and be able to see the difference between having the “holiday blues” where symptoms should go away once the holidays are over, and a much more serious condition of seasonal depression or a major depressive disorder. If you are or know a person with seasonal symptoms that are causing you significant stress, please talk with a doctor or mental health professional. It is important to understand what you are experiencing and if it is a more significant mood disorder that needs attention.