Managing Your Health During The Holiday Season

Woman wearing Santa hat with her head down overwhelmed with tree in background

The whirlwind of the holiday season is upon us. Festivities abound with parties, travel plans, family gatherings and anticipated delight in the memories to be made. We cook, we clean, we shop, we decorate to make the holidays “perfect.” But as joyful as the season may be, the celebrations can disrupt routines, strain finances and test relationships.

Amidst this time of seemingly boundless cheer, you may find yourself navigating a maze of emotions, from the sparkle of the season to the somber hues of the holiday blues. Yes, the holiday blues are real. Defined as a transient emotional state characterized by feelings of sadness, stress or loneliness, the holiday blues frequently emerge during this festive period. They stem from heightened pressures, financial constraints, the weight of grief from lost loved ones and a sense of isolation. Symptoms include mood fluctuations, diminished interest in activities, lethargy and difficulty focusing.

How can you avoid or lessen the holiday blues? Preparation proves pivotal in navigating this season and safeguarding your mental health. Consider which situations or behaviors make you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed, and set boundaries that define what is and is not acceptable in your relationships with others. Acknowledging that the holidays don't magically erase negative emotions paves the way for adopting healthy coping mechanisms. 

Managing stress will also help you alleviate the impact of the holiday blues. Stress management starts with establishing realistic expectations. For example, if the entire family is unable to gather on Christmas Day, plan your get-together for another day. By adapting family traditions to the reality of work schedules, travel demands and other seasonal obligations, you will prioritize the shared moment rather than focusing on a specific date on the calendar. Shedding the stress to savor these moments becomes attainable.

Other tips for managing holiday stress include:

  • Budgeting for gifts, travel and traditions with an emphasis on sentiment over expense.
  • Coordinating multiple events with loved ones and embracing flexibility in timing.
  • Recognizing the triggers that compound the holiday blues. Try to avoid isolation. Seeking solace from friends, family or community grief support groups offers comfort. 

The loss of a loved one is often most keenly felt during the holidays. Navigating grief demands a compassionate approach. Start by acknowledging your feelings and allowing yourself to experience and express them. Seek support from friends and family members who understand how you are feeling. Find ways to honor your lost loved one by lighting a candle, creating a memory board or sharing happy memories of time you spent together. Adapt current traditions or create new ones to celebrate the life of your loved one with others who share your loss. Engaging in charitable activities, for example, will help you reach for gratitude and grace while creating new memories to sustain you.

Sometimes our best efforts for self-managing grief and the holiday blues are not enough. If those feelings become overwhelming, seek professional guidance. Your primary care provider can refer you to a mental health professional. In a crisis, call “988” any time of the day or night to talk with a trained licensed counselor.

Prioritizing self-care is always important and especially so during the holidays. Plan ahead to decide which activities you want to take part in and develop an “exit strategy” for times you might begin to feel overwhelmed. Get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, limit alcohol and participate in activities that bring you joy and solace.

Navigating this season involves finding balance amidst the festive whirlwind so that you are able to embrace both the sparkle and the shadows.


Written by: Scott McIntosh*, MD, FAPA, Chief of Psychiatry, Baptist Health Care

*This provider is an independent member of the medical staff of Baptist Hospital Inc. and is not an employee or agent of Baptist Health Care.

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