Christmas is a time of happiness, joy, and fun-filled celebration spent with family and friends, right? Well, not always. For many, the holidays fall far short of these expectations, which can result in increased stress, mild depression, and feelings of anxiety. We call this emotional reaction “the holiday blues.

As you think about the holiday blues, you may remember a holiday that left you feeling less than festive – a particular situation that sparked your holiday blues. So, what to do? Before we talk about solutions, let’s consider a few things that may fuel these feelings. Keep track of how many of these describe your typical holidays:

  • Unrealistic holiday expectations – expecting a perfect Christmas
  • Excessive time demands – work, shopping, parties, decorating, family obligations
  • Nostalgic memories of past holiday celebrations
  • Conflicted family relationships that may worsen during the holidays
  • Overspending on gifts, travel, and entertainment
  • Overindulgence in alcohol and holiday foods

If any of these ring a bell yes, don’t despair. There are things you can do to keep the holiday blues away.

  • Maintain healthy habits. Eat healthy foods, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly.
  • Adopt realistic expectations. Don’t expect a perfect holiday – it doesn’t exist. Avoid comparing your holiday to what you see on social media. Remember, most people only post the good stuff. Don’t expect your family members to get along during the holidays when there’s conflict throughout the year.
  • Create a budget and stick to it. Overspending only worsens the holiday blues.
  • Set appropriate limits. Prioritize demands on your time, and say “no” to certain invitations and activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Pace yourself. Avoid overextending yourself so you don’t end up feeling resentful and overwhelmed.
  • Volunteer. Help someone in need.
  • Enjoy festive activities in your local community. Many of these activities are free.
  • Moderate your alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a depressant and can intensify the holiday blues.
  • Manage excessive consumption of holiday foods. Indulging will only add to your stress and feelings of guilt. Eat a healthy snack before going to a holiday party. Hunger will set you up to overindulge.

If trying to put all of these tips into action feels like too much to tackle, just pick a few that you think will prove most beneficial and give them a try this year.

After the holidays, review the list and see how you did. Do you need to add things to your list next year to further improve your holidays? If yes, make those decisions now while the thought is fresh on your mind, and have your 2019 holiday plan ready to go. By being proactive, you will have one less thing on your to-do list next year.

The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to connect with others, to relax and reflect, and to relish feelings of love and gratitude. To keep the holiday blues from diminishing this special time, be mindful of the behaviors and situations that fuel stress and negative feelings, and proactively make choices and decisions that will make your holiday a healthy and enjoyable one.