Holiday Sadness: ‘Tis the Season

This woman has a crazy look on her face like she is stressed while holding her hands on her head.

Coping With The Holiday Blues

This is the time of year when our senses are inundated by colorful and stimulating lights, decorations, and media. We are faced with a full schedule of activities and commitments with the assumption that everything–and everyone–must be merry and bright.

Our to-do list continues to grow while our resources–time, energy and finances–shrink. It is often difficult to cope with all of the added expectations, especially if we are feeling sad. Many of us feel down this time of year. As a mental health counselor and someone who struggles with the holiday blues I can attest to this. It is difficult to function at the level we would like to in order to get everything accomplished. And if you already struggle with depression this can be a really difficult time.

The main point I want to make is you are not alone.


Why We Struggle

There are reasons why this may be a trying time. Financial difficulties is one. Many of us struggle to make ends meet throughout the year and now try to fit all the seasonal extras into the budget. The added expense of gifts, decorating, travel, and cooking and baking can be quite expensive.

Time and energy both run short. There’s decorating, shopping, wrapping, baking, etc., etc. to take care of.  Fa la la la la. Exhaustion seems to be right around the corner just like all those bell-ringers wanting donations.

Expectations for a Hallmark Channel Christmas often run high. We may see perfection in the media, and then set our sights on having the ideal Christmas. This is unattainable, of course, but we still want it!


a black and white photo of a stuffed bear sitting by a lake


Everyone looks so happy and loving in all those holiday specials on television. Loneliness can become overwhelming over the holidays. We may not be able to see the people we care about the most for whatever reason. Or thinking about spending time with family actually adds to our stress and sadness. Many of us feel obligated to visit with people we don’t see throughout the year even though there’s a very good reason why we avoid them the rest of the year.

Grief can really make this time of year difficult. If we went through a break up or someone close to us passed away during the year it can be grueling. This year my family had to put down two cats we had for 17 years and I know this will be hard. The holidays often trigger loneliness and sadness. Unresolved grief can make us dread participating in any holiday events. This happens even if it’s not the first holiday without someone.


wrapped presents under a christmas tree

Plan of Action

The key is to plan ahead.  Obviously, when you are on a tight budget it helps to start a Christmas fund the day after for next year. However, if you are like me, that never happens. Consider cutting back on gift giving. It is honestly not good or necessary to purchase gifts if it keeps you from paying your bills or puts you further in debt.

Begin early to get as much of your shopping and baking done ahead of time. Research easy recipes, do online shopping, and delegate whatever chores you can to others who are able to help. I know this is tough when you are alone. But ask for help when you can.

Minimize your expectations of yourself. Is mixing up dough, rolling it out, using the cookie cutters, baking and finally decorating cookies something you enjoy? If the answer is no, it’s really not worth your sanity. Reduce your stress by letting go of some of the things you have always done but hate doing. Go to the store and buy cookies already baked just waiting to be decorated. Or buy the ones already decorated. Life is about choices!


a plate of christmas cookies


Say no to attending events that you dread. That yearly party where everyone gets drunk and obnoxious is a good place to start. If your family gathering turns into a family feud every year, consider calling instead. Or, go early and leave early. Assess all of the possibilities and only do what makes you happy. Your obligation is to yourself.

Talk to someone if you are grieving. Your holiday will be different this year and it doesn’t help to pretend you’re not hurting. Journaling is helpful for processing grief. Writing a letter to the person or animal you lost can also make you feel better. Think about starting a new holiday tradition in honor of your loved one to keep them a part of your holiday celebration.


a woman's hand holding a cup of tea


Many of us, myself included, could spend a bit more time and energy on self-care. This is especially true during the holiday season when we have added duties on top of all the usual day-to-day things we do.  I am going to say this as clearly as possible–make self-care a priority.

Go out for a walk to get fresh air and sunshine. Physical activity helps produce feel-good chemicals in the brain. Vitamin D from the sun is difficult to get this time of the year especially in the north. If you have a dog to keep you company on a walk that is an added blessing. Animals are great for reminding us to relax, not worry and enjoy the moment.


2 people walking their dog on a trail in the woods.


Take a break and enjoy a cup of your favorite tea, call a friend to chat, or take a nap. Read a good book, listen to Christmas carols, or take a warm bath.

You can read our article on why self-care is so important here Calgon, Take Me Away!

Volunteering at the animal shelter, food pantry, or your local nursing home is a wonderful way to curb loneliness. There are plenty of opportunities this time of year to help those in need. When we offer kindness to others what we receive back can make the holiday much brighter.

For more ideas on reducing stress check out our article on Self-Care Tips.


orange and white cat peaking out from under a christmas tree

What Really Matters

This is a great time to assess your priorities–not only for the holidays but for your life overall. Who do you want to spend time with and what does this look like? Letting go of that which does not serve you and focusing on the things that bring you peace and joy is a wonderful commitment to yourself for the new year and beyond.

I urge you to go out and look for beauty in the little things. This may be in nature. Or visiting with your neighbor for a few minutes. Take a walk at night and look at the colorful lights. It can be the simplest things that warm our heart and bring peace to the moment.


Outdoor christmas tree covered with snow


We would love to hear your tips or tricks that help you maintain your sanity during this busy time of year. Please share in the comments below.

Have a Peaceful Holiday Season!


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11 thoughts on “Holiday Sadness: ‘Tis the Season

  • December 4, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Great post! You have some wonderful suggestions on what to focus on during a tough season. I’ll definitely be back for more!

  • December 4, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Wonderful post! I have learned over time that it’s so important to prune and scale back on so many levels to have an enjoyable holiday season. It’s not easy, but I’ve pared down the number of people I visit and shop for, and honestly am coming to value the gift of experience so much more highly than material gifts.

    • December 4, 2017 at 6:51 pm

      I agree–it sounds like your holiday will be much more peaceful this way!

  • December 8, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Thank you so much! Having had to grieve the loss of possessions, people, and quite a few very awful memories and battling depression off and on, this is very important. I do work on self-care, but it is difficult to find time. Also the saving for Christmas idea is why I was able to buy the little I have gotten so far. It’s such a wonderful feeling. I feel like my family and I have made it this year, and that’s a wonderful feeling. Thank you for posting these tips and ideas. They are very much appreciated!

    • December 8, 2017 at 7:03 pm

      Thank you for reading my post. It really can be a struggle, and you should feel proud for what you have accomplished.
      Have a wonderful holiday!

      • December 9, 2017 at 8:40 pm

        Thank you so much! It’s the little things that make me happy…like being able to afford Christmas gifts for our family…or even having a warm place to sleep and live. I think if we continue to think of the little things as blessings it can help a lot with depression and feeling sad. Thank you I will have a fantastic holiday!

      • December 10, 2017 at 4:45 pm

        I believe being grateful for what we have attracts more blessings into our life!
        Take care!

      • December 10, 2017 at 8:52 pm

        Yes it does! Even if it doesn’t always work out that way, it really doesn’t matter because the attitude is there and so we still appreciate the less. Make sense?

      • December 10, 2017 at 9:01 pm

        Absolutely! Attitude and gratitude make a huge difference!

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