It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but not for everyone. While many can’t hold back their holiday cheer, others experience much of the opposite. It can be an isolating feeling to wonder, “Why do I feel sad during Christmas?”, but seasonal depression affects a large part of the population.
Known as the Christmas blues, even people who love the holidays can experience feeling down during the season. Here’s more insight into the science behind the phenomenon and how you can best cope.
What Are Christmas Blues?
The most common symptom of holiday depression, or Christmas blues, is a persistent feeling of sadness that begins during the holiday season, varying in intensity and duration.
A range of reasons can trigger it. You may have some past trauma associated with the holidays, be dealing with grief, loss or loneliness, or simply don’t vibe with the shift in energy. November and December are also months that experience much less daylight, which can drastically impact our serotonin production.
Most importantly, the holidays ask a lot of us financially, which may also trigger anxiety. If you’re working more, this could lead to a lack of sleep, which can drastically affect your mood. Some signs that indicate you may be dealing with Christmas blues include:
- Depression or irritability
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling lethargic
- Loss of pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy
It’s important to distinguish the difference between Christmas blues and dealing with something more severe, like seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of major depressive disorder that occurs seasonally and feels much more debilitating.
While Christmas blues tend to start around November or December and dissipate after the new year ends, SAD typically lasts about 40 percent of the year, starting in the late fall and early winter until the spring and summer.
How To Handle Seasonal Depression
Just because you’re dealing with Christmas blues doesn’t mean you’re destined for a gloomy holiday. Here are some easy and effective ways to combat the sad feelings.
There’s nothing quite as helpful to our mental health as therapy. Getting to talk to someone completely unbiased about what you’re experiencing can be incredibly validating and even help you understand yourself better. And if therapy isn’t in the budget, consider trying out a therapy app.
Isolation can be a significant risk factor for depression, especially if you’re far from home for the holidays. Reach out to the people who bring warmth into your life if you’re feeling lonely during the season, even if it’s just to meet up for a cup of coffee. Getting to socialize with another person can make all the difference when dealing with isolating emotions.
Moving your body is an instant way to release endorphins, and regular physical activity can play a significant role in preventing and reducing symptoms of depression. Whether it’s a dance class, kickboxing, or a simple walk around the neighborhood, find what feels right.
If every dinner, holiday party, and gathering invite induces all the more stress, feel no shame in politely declining. People may feel more entitled to your presence or helping hand during the holiday season, but your energy belongs to you. Don’t be afraid to say no if it becomes too much.
While it may be the centerpiece of every holiday gathering, alcohol is a depressant, and drinking excessively can exacerbate any negative feelings that you might have. It isn’t necessary to quit cold turkey, but consider limiting the amount you consume while you may be feeling down.
You’re Not Alone
While it may seem like the world is happy and you’re the odd one out, many people deal with seasonal depression. If the Christmas blues got you this year, don’t be afraid to speak up to your loved one and consider implementing these healthy coping mechanisms to keep your head above water this season.