If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or just plain sad this holiday season, you’re not alone. About 44% of women and 33% of men report having “holiday blues.” 

Amongst all the gifts and tinsel, the holidays can mean added pressures on relationships, finances, schedules, and even things like diet and sleep. 

The holiday blues usually strike between November and January and can include symptoms like stress, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and depression.

People get the blues for different reasons. You might be overwhelmed by your to-do list, missing a loved one who is far away, worried about overspending, or dreading spending time with a difficult family member. The holiday season can be especially tough when you’re dealing with grief.

Here are steps you can take to prevent holiday burnout:

  • Schedule ahead and keep plans realistic. Pick a few favorite traditions, don’t try to do everything, and don’t be shy about delegating.
  • Set a budget and stick to it. Consider “Secret Santa” for a gift exchange with friends. 
  • Find a few neutral topics to talk about with relatives to help avoid disagreements.
  • If you’re grieving or feeling sad, find time to go for a walk or talk with a friend, or allow yourself to cry it out. Give yourself permission to have a quiet holiday this year if you just don’t feel like celebrating.
  • Consider volunteering! Research is clear – volunteering connects you with others, improves your mental and physical health, and can offer fun and fulfillment.
  • Embrace your spirituality. This can help bring gratitude which is essential for getting through tough times.
  • Take care of your body by staying active, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy food.

Holiday blues are usually temporary, but they sometimes overlap with other mental health issues like depression or anxiety. If you have symptoms that are severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or mental health professional. 

Setting boundaries around the holidays might feel awkward, but it doesn’t make you a Grinch. Make it a tradition to check in with yourself when the holidays come around so you can prioritize self-care.

By: Benjamin Thompson, MD, Behavioral Health, Pacific Permanente Group