SMA Healthcare
24/7 HOTLINE: (800) 539-4228
My ecare Volunteer

Beating the Holiday Blues


During the whirl of the holiday season, essentially from Halloween to Valentine’s Day, it may seem to you that the whole world is in a perpetual state of celebratory ecstasy. If this time of year leaves you feeling a bit empty, you may even begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with you. Would it surprise you to learn that, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)1, about 64 percent of people experience depression during the winter holidays? If you’re in that 64 percent, you can feel comforted by the fact that you’re not alone, and that there are some very good reasons to feel this way. Fortunately, there are also some very effective ways to beat the winter blues.

Before we get into all of that, though, let’s define what we’re discussing. What people typically experience when they’ve got the winter blues is amplified depression. In other words, this means a lowered mood for those who don’t usually struggle with depression and intensified negative emotions for those who do. If your normal routine seems more difficult than usual, and you feel fatigued, you may be dealing with seasonal depression. This can cause you to have trouble concentrating, lose interest in the things you normally enjoy, suffer from a lack of energy, and experience mood swings.

Why? It could be related to the weather. When it’s cold out, people tend to become more isolated, which can contribute to depression. What’s more, melatonin levels, which affect sleep and mood, are disrupted by seasonal shifts. There is also research to suggest that less time in the sunshine during the winter months can cause a vitamin D deficiency, which has been linked to depression.

There are also psychological and emotional reasons you might feel down at this time of year. People who don’t have families, or live far away from their families, often feel lonely during this season, when other people are celebrating with family and friends. Older people, in particular, may feel isolated and nostalgic for previous years when they had a house full of people. For people who have lost loved ones, the bright holiday season can be painful, and the cold, dark winter can feel empty. Then, too, there’s plenty of stress at this time of year. According to research from the American Psychological Association2, about 38 percent of people feel their stress increases during the holiday season, because of social and financial pressures, as well as having too much to do and too little time. After the holidays, there’s work to make up, and all the post-holiday bills to pay. With all of those factors, it’s easy to see why people would feel depressed at this time of year. So, what can you do to combat the winter blues?

First, acknowledge what you’re experiencing. Take stock of why you’re feeling down, and think about what you can do to make things easier. Go ahead and feel what you’re feeling, taking time to cry or find another outlet for your emotions. It’s normal to feel this way, and you are not going to be able to force yourself to be happy. Once you’ve acknowledged it, though, try these steps to help you work through and get past these painful emotions.

  • Reach out to others. Sometimes, all it takes is a connection with another person to help you overcome sadness. Seek community within your religious institution or neighborhood, plan a fun outing with a family member or friend, or consider volunteering. Helping others can lift your spirits and connect you with like-minded individuals. While you’re reaching out, consider reaching out to a friend or family member with whom you’ve had a conflict, releasing that ill will, and starting fresh with your relationship.
  • Take time for self-care. Make sure you work some time for yourself into your schedule, whether you want to spend that time participating in a hobby you enjoy, meditating, reading, listening to music, or just resting. Time spent alone can be refreshing, especially in the midst of social obligations.
  • Keep up with your healthy habits. Get plenty of sleep, eat a nutritious diet, get regular exercise, avoid tobacco, and limit your consumption of alcohol. These things should be on your list all year, but especially during the holidays.
  • Ditch the idea of perfection. You might have a picture in your mind of what the “perfect” holiday looks like, the perfect family gathering, or the perfect party. Let these images go, instead embracing the messiness of real life. You may not be able to keep everything the way it’s always been or perfectly execute each ritual and tradition, but that’s ok. Putting too much pressure on yourself to make everything the way it “should be” can bring you down and that won’t help anyone.
  • Take time to make careful plans. Look at what you’ve got going on over the next few months and set aside some time to plan for various events. Take things off the schedule if they’re not going to make you happy, opting for events you enjoy over obligatory appearances. If you’re hosting, make detailed plans for the event. Vacationing? Plan what you’ll pack. There’s something about making a plan that can help you feel more in control of every situation.
  • Know how to say no. It’s not possible to meet all of your work commitments while also volunteering or participating in every winter event to which you’re invited. Saying no to some events allows you to be fully present at the ones you truly value.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek help. You may feel better after talking things out with a friend or family member. On the other hand, you may not. Ask your doctor for a referral for mental healthcare, or reach out to your local mental health clinic.

Happy family in winter season at Florida

With over 60 years of experience providing behavioral healthcare services, SMA Healthcare offers a full continuum of services for those experiencing mental illness and/or addiction. Our high standards of care and unwavering dedication to our clients have made us a leader in healthcare, and our primary goal is our clients’ well-being. We’re proud to serve the communities in Citrus, Flagler, Marion, Putnam, St. Johns, and Volusia Counties, offering compassionate, quality care, provided by committed professionals, using evidence-based treatment practices to change lives for the better. We offer residential care, mental health rehab, and outpatient services, as well as substance abuse treatment and many other mental health services. To reach our 24/7 Access and Crisis Response Center, call us at 1-800-529- 4228. You can also email us at or contact us through our website.