Depression During Holidays: 5 Reasons that You Might Have a Blue Christmas

Deborah Gray Health Guide
  • I'm sure that over the past few years you've seen articles about the holiday blues, maybe even the one I wrote. To briefly recap, having the holidays blues isn't the same thing as being depressed during the holidays. No, the holiday blues can strike any of us, whether we have depression or not. Some of the symptoms of clinical depression will usually be present. You might have sadness, sleep or appetite disturbances, anxiety or difficulty concentrating.

    But, I hear you say, aren't the holidays the happiest, most joyful time of the year? Yes, absolutely. So why would anyone start feeling depressed at this time? The reasons that people generally cite are:

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    • Lack of money/materialism
    • Lack of time
    • Conflicts with family
    • Lack of emotional fulfillment
    • Not taking care of ourselves

    Lack of money/materialism

    This year, fewer people are stressing out over the rampant commercialism of the season, because they're instead stressing out over how crummy it is that they can't afford to give anything. It's especially disappointing when you have children. Let me tell you, I'm right there with you. Last year we bought our son an obscene amount of presents. But this year the economic situation is fairly grim and we're really at the opposite end of the spectrum. I'm knitting presents for my whole family using yarn I already had on hand.

    But let's face it, even during times of plenty, we're likely to have a mild coronary when we open our credit card statements in January, and are apt to feel some disappointment over the lack of bang for your buck. You often find yourself wondering if that's all there is to the season.

    Lack of Time

    It seems that every year the holiday season is as frantic and stressful as it is joyful, especially if you're a working mom. I don't know whether it's tradition or biological, but women take on (and sometimes have thrust upon them) the gift-buying, event planning and food preparation.

    And for some reason the holiday season seems to bring out (or, for some of us perfectionists, worsen) a need to have everything perfect. It's not enough to buy gifts, wrap them, decorate and make a holiday feast. We have to do it all on a Martha Stewart level. And we also want our house to be clean and to attend all sorts of holiday activities and still have plenty of time to sit in front of the fire with our family and sing Christmas carols, or, if we're single, hanging out at the coffee shop after Christmas shopping.

    The problem is, of course, that there just isn't enough time for all of this, but every year we still run ourselves ragged trying to make it happen, and end up with a schedule that's so crammed that we usually fall asleep, exhausted, on the couch on Christmas Day.

    Family Conflicts

    Around the holidays, do you find yourself humming the song "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" and chuckling evilly? You're not alone. Our families can be a source of joy during the holidays, or they can cause us a lot of stress and anger. Most families seem to combine a bit of both. Maybe your grandmother always sniffs disapprovingly at the gift you spent hours choosing. Or maybe cousin Fred always gets obnoxiously drunk, insults everyone and knocks over the tree.

  • It's kind of hard to completely enjoy your holiday when you're anticipating some form of unpleasantness. Generally, the most we do is roll our eyes and complain to the other family members the next day, and unfortunately that doesn't change anything.

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    Lack of Emotional Fulfillment

    In a way, it's not surprising that many of us feel rather empty during or after the holidays. Our expectations are usually high, and in most cases they're influenced by the Christmases of our childhoods. You know, that time of life when we had no bills or jobs and we were excited about Santa? Let's face it, a grown up Christmas is going to be different from the child's Christmas. Not necessarily worse, just different.

    There are myriad reasons why the holidays may disappoint us in an emotional or spiritual sense. Very often we've lost touch with what it is that really brings us enjoyment, and we just need to re-discover it.

    Not taking care of ourselves

    Let's count the ways in which we abuse our bodies during the holidays. We drink too much, eat too much of the wrong type of food, don't get enough sleep, neglect our exercise routine, don't take time to de-stress...have I forgotten anything? Your health can affect your mood, certainly enough to contribute to the holidays blues.

    It's no wonder that most of us view the holidays with mixed emotions, and that some of us go past plain old stress and fatigue to temporary depression. That's not how it has to be, though, and I will offer some suggestions in my next SharePost to help you combat the problem.

Published On: December 16, 2008