‘Holiday Blues’ or, What to do When You Feel Lonely During the Holidays

As the holiday season approaches, not everyone is filled with cheer. Some people love the seasons and start decorating their houses as soon as possible. They are the people who host the parties and plan what seems like weekly events that to the rest of us feel like holiday horror stories. This mandatory holiday cheer and good tidings can fill us with dread.

One of the biggest reasons why some people dread the holiday season has less to do with ugly sweater parties and more to do with the impending feeling of loneliness. Remember, there is a distinct difference between experiencing “loneliness” and “being alone”. Someone can be physically alone and feel no sense of loneliness at all. On the other hand, someone who is alone might feel lonely, but it is possible to feel lonely even when you are surrounded by people.

Regardless, feeling the ‘holiday blues’ this time of year is more common than you might think. The holidays often have this effect on people– why do you think there are so many movies about it? Today, we will be discussing what the holiday blues are and how to deal with this seasonal loneliness.

What Are the ‘Holiday Blues’?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines these holiday blues as “temporary feelings of anxiety or depression during the holidays that can be associated with extra stress, unrealistic expectations, or even memories that accompany the season.”

Some of the most common symptoms of the holiday blues are loneliness or isolation, tension, frustration, fatigue, and sadness. Anxiousness and the overconsumption of alcohol or food are common. The National Alliance of Mental Illness also says that “extra stress, unrealistic expectations or even sentimental memories that accompany the season can be a catalyst for the holiday blues.”

It is believed to be brought on by the cultural pressures surrounding that time of year. In the United States, we are often told how to spend money, how much time we should be spending around family and friends, and to be cheerful and festive throughout the holiday season.

Loneliness does not always mean huddling and staring out the window while rain pours down. Loneliness is different for everyone who experiences it. Most of the common examples include anxiety, frustration, procrastination, low self-confidence, difficulty making decisions, little patience, feeling empty, and more. Loneliness can also physically manifest through upset stomachs, headaches, and body tension. If you find yourself experiencing these holiday blues, please know that you are not alone, no matter how lonely you may feel.

How to Avoid the Holiday Blues

It may seem inevitable that we feel this way, but that is not how it has to be. Here are a few tips on how to successfully avoid the holiday blues:

  • Take time for yourself. There are many travel demands that come with the holiday season, so if you have to sit out a party or two for your own sanity, that is okay! It is hard to feel like you are at the mercy of someone else’s schedule, so take extra time to check in with yourself this season.
  • Avoid over-excessive amounts of alcohol. What would the holidays be without a little eggnog? We are not expecting you to give it up entirely but perhaps drink a little less so you wake up the next morning with more energy. Drinking can be a great way to get through your aunt’s old college stories or your cousin’s engagement announcement, but it is not a cure-all. Overdrinking could be aiding the symptoms of nausea and fatigue you are experiencing as part of the holiday blues. Everything in moderation.
  • Get enough sleep. This can seem pretty basic but are you really getting enough sleep (we have another article on this very topic!)? Late-night holiday activities can really take a toll on your eight hours. There is a link between sleep deprivation and depression, so do what you can to make sure you are getting well-rested.
  • Get enough exercise. Not only because of all of the holiday goodies and treats, but also because exercise is crucial to boosting your energy levels. One of the best things you can do to improve your mood when you are feeling down is to get your heart rate up. No matter what level of physical effort you are able to put in, find something that keeps you active a few times a week and you will find yourself feeling better.

How to Help Yourself Get Over Them (If Avoiding Did Not Work)

So, if you did everything you could and could not manage to avoid the holiday blues, do not be discouraged. Now, we will talk about how to get over them. Here are our best 7 tips on how to help yourself get over the holiday blues:

1. Accentuate the Positive

The holidays are known to trigger feelings of loneliness. It is so important to stay positive and accentuate the positive things in your life. Remember that you may be in excellent health, have a great job, or big house. Those are things that cultivate good feelings. It can be hard to focus on the positive things when you feel negative, so do your best to remind yourself of the little things.

2. Acknowledge That Feelings Come and Go

It is perfectly okay to be upset for a little while, but important to know that those feelings do not last forever. They come and go. If you stay present and acknowledge the feelings that you have and let them go, you can be aware of your loneliness without remaining that way. Knowing that it will pass is an important part of the process. When you put your emotions in perspective, it can help so much!

3. Restructure Your Expectations

Our society has huge expectations for the holiday season. It can be difficult to go through the holidays if you have lost a family member or do not have a romantic partner. Society tells us that we should be cheery and excited, but sometimes we are just not. That is okay! When we restructure our expectations and go in knowing that some of the holiday seasons will not be perfectly splendid, it helps us prepare ourselves for that.

4. Practice Gratitude

There are many benefits to be received from practicing gratitude. If you are feeling down because of your love life, make a sharp effort to focus on the love you do have. This could come from all areas of your life (pets, neighbors, friends, family). Focus on what you really value in your life. When you express more gratitude, you see a very positive impact. We have a cool, big article about gratitude with tips and ways to work with it! Please check it out for more information.

5. Establish New Traditions

The holidays are the perfect time to create traditions. It is easy to get caught up in the madness of old traditions and finding yourself unable to enjoy it now that that ex or family member is no longer with you. We suggest establishing new holiday traditions for yourself or a gorup of friends! Volunteering, attending a local event, or going to see a movie on Christmas Eve are all great ways to bring in some new holiday cheer. Eventually, these new traditions will be able to boost your spirits about the holidays. Many people have started the tradition of a ‘Friendsgiving’ where people come together and often potluck to celebrate the giving season. Whatever your new traditions maybe, make them your own.

6. Give Back

One of the best ways to feel less lonely during the holidays is to donate your time. Helping others who are not as fortunate as yourself can make you feel motivated and a sense of pride. It is also a great way to remind yourself of everything you have to be grateful for. Being part of something larger than yourself can connect you to the real spirit of the season. If someone in your community lost his or her job, for example, you could drop off an unexpected gift or reach out to see if they need help with anything. These simple, generous acts of kindness some of the best ways to celebrate the holidays. When you get out of your own head and find a place that needs your help and skills, it helps separate you from feeling lonely.

7. Know You Are Not Alone

You may feel alone right now, and that is a very difficult feeling, but know that you are not. The holidays can be overwhelming and difficult. Some people wish they were away from family and friends while others wish they were closer. For some, it is a time of mourning. For others, it is a reminder that they lack a romantic relationship. It is okay to feel lonely, but you do not have to let it consume you. Talk to people who share a similar sentiment as you. This can help you truly see you are not alone in your feelings. No matter what is causing you to feel lonely, it will get better and you are not alone.

A Word From Mental Treat

Experiencing these blues is entirely normal. You are not alone, no matter how lonely you may feel. If you are feeling like this sensation is overwhelming, please look for professional support. This can be the best way to prove to yourself that you are not alone.

Mental Treat’s platform has a variety of mental health professionals who are equipped to help you. Simply apply filters as you see necessary and reach out to the people who match your needs. We are here to help. Take care, and be well.


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Sean McCormick

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