Tis the season to be jolly fa la la la la la la! Around the world, everyone waits for Christmas; it is one of the most celebrated holidays around the world. People decorate their Christmas trees and houses with lighting and beautiful decorations, buy gifts for their loved ones, and bond under the Christmas tree. As fun as this sounds, some people don’t celebrate a “merry” or “happy” Christmas. They suffer from a condition that pumps up anxiety and increases their stress levels to high levels, leaving them in sad and depressive moods. You can read further to understand why and how “you” can avoid being “sad” during a happy time like Christmas.
What Are Holiday Blues?
Christmas is the season of joy and happiness. You can hear people singing happy cheers and enjoying a hot cup of coffee, but this might only be the case for some. For some people, the holidays can be depressing, stressful, and painful, which might toss their Christmas spirit in the air. As normal as it is to experience holiday blues, this can happen to everyone and anyone. Even if you are an international student or a working professional who loves spending holidays, you are susceptible to holiday depression.
Am I Suffering From Holiday Blues Symptoms?
Even though holiday blues are temporary, it is always good to be aware of them rather than staying ignorant. If you are suffering from the symptoms mentioned below, chances are that you are struggling with holiday depression or holiday blues
- You are occasionally hit by an unwavering wave of sadness
- Loss of interest in different activities or studies
- Loss of appetite
- You might feel very worthless, hopeless, and tired
- A significant difficulty in concentrating
- You might excessively sleep or be in a state of insomnia
- Have frequent strong headaches
- Binge eat and consume more alcohol or drugs
Why are holiday blues so common during Christmas?
As a student, managing your studies and daily life can be stressful, which results in showing negligence towards your mental and physical needs. There can be many underlying reasons that might be a part of your routine or unhealthy ways of dealing with thoughts that might have transpired into making you feel holiday blues around the time of Christmas,
Here are some reasons :
- Loneliness: Some students start feeling homesick or want to return home during the holidays; the biggest reason for such feelings is loneliness or isolation. When you go away from your family and friends, you start craving to spend celebratory moments together, which results in feelings of sadness.
- Unrealistic expectations: Do you know what is the similar root cause of sorrow and holiday depression? Expectations. If you keep high hopes and expectations for yourself as a student, then chances are you are bound to feel crushed if they are not realistic or unreal. As the year ends, you will start comparing your experiences with others and be critical about yourself, leading to dissatisfaction and disappointment. 49% of students take stress on a daily basis! Learn how to manage your stress from our blog on stress management
- Lack of Sleep: With a hectic schedule of assignments and deadlines approaching during the holidays, students tend to miss out on their night and pull all-nighters in hopes of finishing all their pending work. Lack of sleep and unhealthy sleep patterns induce anxiety and depression symptoms which can also be classified as “holiday depression.”
- Environment Changes: As the holiday season approaches, there are changes in the time and environment that add up to feeling blue; this can be due to less time spent outside, decreased sunlighting, and inconsistency between the body’s biological clock and external schedule.
8 Tips For Coping Up With Holiday Blues
Holiday blues can be a bummer, especially when a cheerful and happy environment surrounds you. But there are also ways to fight and combat these blues by adopting healthy coping mechanisms. Here are eight ways how to deal with holiday blues or holiday depression:
Gratitude has been a long-lived tradition during the holidays. Exchanging gifts and sending Christmas cards are a few traditional ways of showing gratitude and telling someone they are loved during the holidays. The same power of gratitude can uplift your holiday spirits when experiencing holiday depression. Gratitude steers away some of the negative feelings and induces positive emotions in your body, which will help you be mindful and in the moment. There are two simple gratitude exercises that you can follow if you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious during the holiday season:
- Take a piece of paper and write down everything you were grateful for in the passing year.
- A great sense of gratitude comes from writing handwritten notes or letters to your close friends and family. Put some thoughts into words and send them a letter or a message.
2. Prioritise yourself
If you are a student, you probably have heard yourself say to someone, “I don’t have time to take a breather”, well such remarks and statements clearly show that you are poor at prioritising yourself. Learning to block time out for yourself is crucial, and self-care should be a priority on your to-do list during the holiday season. Being a student means that you are constantly on the run for an entire semester, attending lectures, completing homework, meeting deadlines, and socialising with others, leaving you with little to no time for yourself. This causes emotions such as exhaustion, stress, overwhelm, and eventually burning out and feeling blue. If such feelings arise, ensure you are not over-exerting yourself over social obligations and spending some time with yourself by doing the things you love most.
3. Digital detox
This year give yourself a Christmas present by being present and clocking out from all your digital devices. Most of us engage in mindless scrolling on social media, keep consuming content, and replying to messages which results in a lot of wasted time and energy. This later channels into feelings of guilt, sadness, and frustration that lead to not being in the mood for Christmas cheer and joy. Hence, it is suggested to unplug from your devices during this season as it has a lot of benefits, such as
- You can detach yourself from feeling the fear of missing out
- You will be more settled at the moment
- You can catch up on more sleep and do your favourite activities
4. Connect with your loved ones
For some students, holidays can be a painful reminder for students of being away from home or trigger homesickness. During the holidays, students who are away from home usually feel isolated, lonely, and left out; all these feelings kick in together, resulting in holiday blues. During such moments, you should never isolate yourself; this will further conspire into something more harmful. Instead, reach out to your friends, social group, or your family, talk to them about your feelings, and seek comfort. You can also call your friends over for a cookout session, join a local club or do some volunteer work to help you socialise and keep your spirits energised during the season. Even if you are away from your loved ones, you can always find ways to be connected through a video call or a message.
“A new year and new me always starts with a fresh mind” is where journaling comes into the picture. Journaling is translating your thoughts into words on a piece of paper and is a very empowering activity for your mental health. Giving your thoughts a space would help you declutter your mind and open up a space for more positive and healthy thoughts. Writing down would help you gain more perspective and clarity on what types of thoughts are going through your mind. As the year approaches an end, you are bound to self-loathe and obsessively think about your past mistakes, which leads to feeling holiday blues. Instead of beating yourself up, you should try journaling prompts and reflecting on your achievements and areas of improvement.
Some Journal entries could look something like this:
- What was the biggest challenge I faced this year?
- What are the big wins and goals I accomplished this year?
- What are my priorities next year?
- What would I want my next year to look like?
- What changes or improvements would I like to make about myself in the coming year?
6. Acknowledge your feelings
Shutting off your emotions and not acknowledging your feelings or honouring your emotions is a huge sign of an emotional spiral. We as humans are programmed to ignore and dust off negative feelings, but the truth is sitting in our emotions will help us more in the long run. If you are missing someone, feeling a void in your heart, or experiencing unwavering grief or sadness, acknowledge and accept those feelings. There are many underlying benefits when you choose to embrace and recognise your negative feelings,
- You can understand your feelings and emotions at a much deeper level
- You can quickly identify your triggers and things that bring up a particular emotion
- You learn that you are in control and tune with your own emotions
- You will develop a healthy relationship with your mind
7. Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms
Due to poor mental health, anxiety, and stress levels, many students turn to unhealthy mechanisms to cope with their temporary rough phases. Students confide in overeating. Alcohol, drugs, and different substances to help navigate and manage their painful and difficult emotions. Such coping strategies only worsen your situation and add up to more problems. Hence it is essential to be aware and consciously choose healthy coping mechanisms that can help you in these stressful moments.
8. Seek help
Holiday depression cannot be at the same intensity for everyone. Different students go through this in varying intensities, and sometimes it can take a toll on your mental health; in these painful and breaking point moments, you should consider talking to a therapist at your college. There is no shame in seeking professional help if you are facing or going through a tough time during the holidays. Speaking to a mental health professional might help you better understand your condition and what practises you can use to ease and deal with your situation. Are you looking for more tips for mental health? Check out our blog on ways to take care of your mental health while studying abroad!
Holiday vs Seasonal Depression
The distinction between holiday and seasonal depression can be challenging if you are unaware of the difference between the two. We usually use two factors to scale out whether an individual suffers from a season or holiday depression, i.e. duration and intensity.
Timeline: Holiday Depression usually onsets in November and December and lasts until New Year. On the contrary, seasonal depression is a little longer; it starts in late fall and ends at the beginning of spring or summer.
Symptoms: Holiday Depression symptoms are more on the milder side of the spectrum, whereas Seasonal depression symptoms are more severe.
You might be thinking, are holiday blues and post-holiday blues the same? The answer is Yes and No. During post-holiday blues, feelings of sadness, anxiety, and depression creep into after the holiday season. The symptoms and causes are the same as holiday blues, but the onset kicks in a little later. Just like holiday blues, this is a depressive period for a brief and temporary period. You can use the techniques mentioned above to deal with post-holiday blues.
In a nutshell, holiday blues or holiday depression can happen to anyone during the holiday season. Instead of being afraid and shutting away your emotions in exchange for feeling happy during the Christmas season, it is crucial to have appropriate knowledge about the situation and know how to deal with it. The ways mentioned above should be integrated into your routine during the holidays and throughout the year.