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Holidays | mental health | self-care

How to beat the holidays blues in 7 steps

November 18th, 2022 | 8 min. read

How to beat the holidays blues in 7 steps

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Feeling sad is a normal part of life. Sadness comes and goes. Sometimes we don’t know what causes us to be sad. At other times we have specific triggers that spiral us downward into the blues.

 

Although the holidays can be a time of joyousness and celebration, they can also be a time of stress, worry, overwhelm, and sadness. 

 

Sadness is an emotion that encompasses everything from mild disappointment to extreme despair and anguish. Losing interest in normal daily activities, lacking energy, and having trouble concentrating are typical characteristics of sadness. 

 

The Paseo Club is a social club in the Santa Clarita Valley that supports members in fitness, nutrition, and overall health. We wrote this article because we know that this is the time of year that can bring ups and downs for many of us. 

 

By reading this article, you will learn what the holiday blues are, safe and easy-to-implement tips about how to beat the holiday blues, and when to seek help from a professional.

 

What are the holiday blues?

The holidays are often a time of high emotion and demands, which can leave you feeling stressed and exhausted — even if you love this time of year.

 

Some factors can be:

  • Seeing family
  • Increased food consumption
  • Loss of, or change, in routine
  • Increase alcohol consumption
  • More social gatherings to attend
  • Increased responsibilities at work
  • Increased consumption of unhealthy foods
  • Increased financial strain to afford gifts and travel

 

For those who already struggle with mental illness, 64% say their symptoms worsen during the holidays.

 

How to beat the holiday blues in 7 steps

1. Say no

The holidays are fraught with obligations — trips to see distant family, gifts to purchase, and parties to attend. It is easy to get overextended and overstimulated. Creating healthy boundaries and saying no is key to finding balance during the holidays. 

 

2. Sleep and rest

Getting a good night’s sleep has a significant impact on your mood. A poor night’s sleep can make you low in energy, less resilient to life’s challenges, and way more irritable to your friends, family, and co-workers. 

 

Practice sleep hygiene:

  • Darken your room 
  • Keep your room cool
  • Use a weighted blanket
  • Try to not overeat before bed
  • Minimize caffeine and alcohol before bed
  • Allocating enough hours for adequate rest
  • Implement white noise (if that is helpful for you)
  • Not being on a device at least an hour before bed 

 

Rest is equally important, especially if you did not sleep well the night before or are introverted and need to avoid becoming overstimulated. Whether you choose meditation, a quiet walk in nature, or lying down for a catnap, rest is a pathway to quiet the mind and bring a sense of calm. 

 

 3. Spend time with friends

You will likely be surrounded by a lot of people during holiday social events. But that is not the same as spending time with your closest buddies. 

 

Friends are often a life raft when things are tough. The holidays are a great time to lean on your friends for support and camaraderie. Meet up to share a meal or a coffee at the cafe, or even just make a phone call. 

 

Having a friend with whom you can speak honestly, vent your frustrations, and laugh at life’s follies is a great way to support your mental health during the holiday season.

 

4. Stay active, even in short bursts

Your daily routines can change during the holidays. You may be away from home. Maybe your work is closed, or alternately you may be working overtime. Attending all your responsibilities can make you feel too tired to exercise. 

 

But now, more than ever is the time to carve out little moments to break a sweat. Exercise increases your sense of well-being and reduces anxiety and negative moods

Even if you cannot stick to your regular fitness regimen, it is better to do something instead of nothing.

  • Do yoga on a mat at home
  • Go on an after-meal walk, hike, or bike ride
  • Meet up with friends for tennis or pickleball
  • Attend group fitness classes for camaraderie and support 
  • Do a quick, at-home bodyweight Tabata — squats, pushups, planks, and lunges are all great choices

 

5. Stick to your routine as much as possible

Although you may feel pulled in a million directions at once, pay attention to where you can keep your routine the same. 

 

There are many benefits to maintaining a routine:

  • Reduces stress
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Increases efficiency in tasks
  • Increases engagement in exercise
  • Increases in making healthier food choices

 

6. Eat as healthy as you can, but don’t sweat the indulgences

The holidays are when chefs around the country tie on their aprons and get to work cooking up the most delicious and decadent foods they can think to make. Pie, cakes, cookies, bread, gravies, stuffing, wine, beer, and the list goes on!

 

It is natural that with so many tempting foods around, we eat more food than usual and more nutrient-poor foods.

 

If you are the host of a holiday feast, look to emphasize the protein and vegetables in your meal. 

 

Turkey, roast beef, fish, or pork loin are all nourishing choices for your centerpiece. Baked yams or squash, green beans, salad, and sauteed leafy greens are delicious sides that won’t leave you overstuffed.

 

Even desserts can be somewhat healthy. Select fresh seasonal fruit such as persimmons, pears, apples, and pomegranates. Make low-sugar nut tortes or fruit pies. Pumpkin or sweet potato pie, (with less sugar than usually called for) is high in vitamins, fiber, and healthy fats.

 

If you are not a host at the meal, offer to bring a healthy side dish and do your best to choose your food — and portions — as best as you can. 

 

If you feel that you have strayed from your regular eating habits — well, welcome to the club! Don’t belabor it. Return to your healthier habits as often, and as soon, as you can.

 

7. Pamper yourself 

Taking extra good care of yourself during the holidays can appear to be a laughable objective. How in the world is that possible, you may wonder. 

 

Easy. Make your goals small and accessible.

  • Sleep in
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Call a friend and tell them a joke
  • Play hide and seek with your kids
  • Go on a walk in your neighborhood, slowly
  • Make your morning coffee with love and reverence
  • Exchange shoulder rubs with your partner or a friend
  • Go to exercise class and sweat it out with your fellow classmates

 

This period can also be a time to make grander gestures for yourself — attending a concert, receiving a massage from a massage therapist, getting a manicure and pedicure, or scheduling a night at a fancy hotel.

 

How do you know if you have the holiday blues, and when do you need help?

The holiday blues is characterized as a feeling of sadness that lasts through the holiday season — especially during the months of November and December. Symptoms can include:

  • Crying more often
  • Drinking more alcohol than usual
  • Having no appetite or eating too much 
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much 
  • Losing interest in activities that you used to enjoy

If you find that these feelings of sadness are strongly impacting your life or are not going away, it may be time to seek help from a professional.

Therapy with a professional counselor or clinical social worker can help you understand the sources of your sadness and learn how to develop coping strategies for when you feel overwhelmed.

The Paseo Club has been supporting people in their journey to health and wellness for almost twenty years. Members enjoy access to over 60 fitness classes each week, tennis and pickleball courts, and a junior-Olympic pool.

If you would like to join a fitness club that also cares about the community, then the Paseo Club may be just the place for you. Schedule a tour today to check out the facilities and meet staff and instructors.

To learn more about self-care and mental health, check out these articles.