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Navigating holiday depression: prioritizing your emotional well-being

November 29, 2023
5 minutes
Lifestyle Health & Wellness
Mental health

It may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for some people, the holiday season brings feelings of sadness and depression. Feeling down when everyone else is in a festive mood can be confusing, but there are good reasons for these feelings. If you find that you’re struggling a bit with sadness and depression during the holidays, you’re not alone. Holiday depression is more common than the cards and movies make it out to be, but some practical solutions can help.

Common causes of depression around the holidays

Having depression around the holidays can have many contributing factors. First, in the US, this time of year is in the winter, which is when seasonal affective disorder occurs. This automatically increases the chances of having depression. Yet, there are additional factors that occur during the holiday season that increase the risk of developing these feelings.

Increased pressure

Living in the Pinterest era puts even more pressure on everyone to keep things picture-perfect, but Pinterest boards are not real life. If you’re feeling pressure to do everything perfectly and meet everyone’s expectations for a magical holiday, it can take a toll on your mental health.


If you’ve recently had a major life change or lost a loved one during the past year, the grief associated with these events can feel more acute during the holidays. Not having life as it normally is can make you feel sad and lonely.

Financial stress

The holidays can get expensive, especially if you’re facing high expectations for how you’ll celebrate and what gifts you’ll give. This increases financial stress.

Poor time management

During the holidays, you still only have 24 hours a day, and you have to use some of those hours to sleep. If you lack time management skills, you'll find that the stress levels you face increase significantly, leaving you feeling depressed and tired.

How to cope with holiday stress

Understanding the factors that can trigger the holiday blues is the first step in managing your mental health during this season, but you’ll also need to take some proactive strategies to help. Here are some ideas.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to being fully present and aware of what is happening in a particular moment, both outside of you and inside your body. All people can be mindful, but our busy society can make it harder to practice this mental state, so learn how to bring yourself back to mindfulness when your stress levels start to rise.

To practice mindfulness, take time to slow down and notice what’s happening around you. What do you see, hear, feel, and taste? Focus on your breathing, taking in deep breaths. Take an inventory of your emotional state. By doing all of these things, you can correct your thinking and bring yourself back into a state of mindfulness. This may help you enjoy the holiday festivities more because you’ll be able to take them all in.

Learn relaxation exercises

When stress levels start to rise, relaxation exercises may help. Here are some to try:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation: Practice relaxing your muscles a few at a time, tensing and relaxing from your toes to the top of your head.
  • Visualization: Visualize a calm, relaxing place or situation, and picture yourself in it.
  • Deep breathing: Take a deep breath, hold it for a count of five, and then let it out slowly.
  • Yoga: Yoga involves breathing and stretches to create a sense of balance and relaxation in the body.

Set realistic expectations

One of the factors leading to holiday stress is the high expectations many people place on themselves during the holidays. Remember, the holidays are about spending time with family and friends and learning to appreciate those you love even more. You don’t have to have a five-course meal with specialty centerpieces to enjoy your time. If you make your expectations more manageable, you may face less stress.

Don’t neglect physical health

The holiday season is a time with extra treats and fewer opportunities to exercise. However, it doesn’t have to derail your healthy living goals. While you can restart healthy habits after the holidays, you may find that your mental health stays in a better place if you keep up with healthy eating and exercise routines as much as possible. Allow yourself some tasty holiday treats, but aim to balance them with your healthy food choices, too.

Make mental health a priority

During the holidays, you’re going to want to do what you can to protect and prioritize your mental health, especially if you’re prone to struggles with depression. You are the only one who can protect your mental health, so make sure you’re doing all you can to do so. These tips may help.

1. Prioritize self-care

Getting enough sleep and making time to exercise should be a top priority during the holidays. Prioritize the types of self-care that make you feel healthy and energized, and you may find your mental health is better protected.

2. Get support

Whether it’s from friends and family who can help you with your “to-do” list, the listening ear of a loved one when you need a moment to vent, or the professional support of a therapist or counselor, get support for your mental health concerns and keep up with that support through the holidays if you can.

3. Practice healthy boundaries

There is only so much you can do throughout the holidays. Set boundaries to help you protect your mental well-being. Whether it’s saying “no” to a friend’s party or limiting the guest list to the family get-together you’re hosting, boundaries are a key to protecting your mental health.

4. Use Evidation to track your physical health

One aspect of self-care is ensuring you get enough sleep, healthy food, and exercise. One way you can monitor this is with the help of tracking tools, like those that work with Evidation. Connect your tracker to Evidation to better track your physical health markers so you can get through the holidays with an improved mood and fight holiday depression before it starts.

Are you ready to enter the holiday season well-armed? Track your health with Evidation today. You can also learn how health data, such as the data tracked with Evidation, can help you predict seasonal changes in depression.

Mental health
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