What to do when the holidays make you blue

Many people assume that the pretty lights, cheerful music, and tv commercials showing happy families exchanging gifts make everyone’s hearts light up thinking about the holidays. The truth is that not everyone shares those feelings. Instead, the holidays can bring a sense of dread. What’s more challenging is that one must hide this sense of anxiety, sadness, or fear not to get those around them down.

Let’s be clear, feeling sad about the holidays should not be attributed to having a mental illness such as depression and anxiety. Instead, there are various reasons people can feel down during this time of year. Examples of stressors during the holidays include grief; financial strain, relationship problems; separation or divorce, job loss, physical or mental illness, facing those who caused you childhood trauma, family members with active addictions, and strained relationships with extended family members.

The public health crisis caused by COVID-19 has added additional stressors for everyone. Whether you have a loved one in long term care who you cannot visit, an income loss, strained relationships from a loss of work-life balance, or cannot have all of your family with you due to government restrictions on gatherings – all of us will be making sacrifices this holiday seasons. It would be fair to say that this holiday season will look different for so many worldwide; for this reason, taking care of your mental health has become more urgent than ever.

Mental Health is something everyone has, and it is a continuum ranging from Healthy, Reactive, Injured, and Ill. Below is an image that outlines the continuum of mental health that categorizes symptoms for each phase. Take a moment to review where you are on this continuum. Once you’ve identified where you land, make sure to look at the area titled “Actions to Take at each Phase of the Continuum” to understand better what steps one can take as an effort to not progress to a worsening stage and move back towards the healthy phase.

Image source: BC Emergency Health Services1

In addition to the suggested actions one can take in each phase of the continuum, Psychcentral.com2 has listed specific strategies for maintaining wellness during the holidays that are listed below:

  • Recognize that the people in your life are who they are
  • Take care of yourself
  • Stick to your budget
  • Everything in moderation
  • Permit yourself to let some things go
  • Take time every day to enjoy something about the season
  • Reach out
  • Do random acts of kindness
  • Find things to be grateful for

So remember to be kind to yourself. Not just during the holidays, but in your day-to-day living. Everyone on earth has a story, and no one lives a life free of suffering. Let’s be kind to ourselves and others and prioritize our mental wellness to optimize how we experience life and give love, hope, and support to others.

If you are interested in learning more strategies to maintain wellness during the holidays, feel free to read these short articles listed in the reference section of this document.


1Mental health. (2019, August 21). Retrieved November 15, 2020, from https://uwaterloo.ca/campus-wellness/mental-health

2Hartwell-Walker, M. (2018, October 08). How to Stay Mentally Healthy During the Holidays. Retrieved November 15, 2020, from  https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-stay-mentally-healthy-during-the-holidays/

Tips for coping with holiday stress. (2020, November 11). Retrieved November 15, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544

Panjwani, R. (2014, December 12). For Peel residents dreading a “blue Christmas” help.
Retrieved November 15, 2020, from https://www.bramptonguardian.com/news-story/5203893-for-peel-residents-dreading-a-blue-christmas-there-s-help/

Tips for preventing a “blue Christmas” and New Year. (2014, December 18). Retrieved November 15, 2020, from https://toronto.cmha.ca/news/tips-preventing-blue-christmas-new-year/

Greensmyth, A. (2019, December 23). Mental Health at the Holidays. Retrieved November 15,2020, from https://www.parallelwellness.ca/mental-health-at-the-holidays/