As the most wonderful time of year fast approaches, some of us aren’t feeling all that festive. It’s not that we particularly lack holiday spirit: we just can’t seem to get in that festive mood.
If everyone around you is talking about holiday plans but your mind is stuck somewhere else, does this mean you are suffering from a case of the holiday blues?
Well, the short answer is: not necessarily, so read on to learn why.
What Are the Holiday Blues?
The holiday blues start in late November or early December and can be described as a feeling of sadness, loneliness, and tiredness. They are often brought about by a lack of sleep, eating heavier meals than usual, and the stress that comes with finding the time to buy all the presents, see everyone, and feel cheerful all the time.
You might also find yourself alone during the holidays, perhaps unable to see your loved ones or having to work extra hours. All of this can contribute to your dampened mood and overall feeling of dissatisfaction.
The holiday blues can be considered a type of situational depression, as they only happen during the end of the year and usually lift as soon as the new year begins.
However, the approaching holidays may not be (the only) cause of your sullen mood. Before you write your feelings off as a case of the seasonal blues, consider these other potential causes.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is estimated to affect 10 million Americans every year. It is also often called seasonal depression. Typically, it begins at the start of fall, as the days get significantly shorter, and lasts until spring.
SAD is characterized by not only a feeling of sadness but a general lethargy. It entails a lack of energy, focus, and interest, as well as a tendency to oversleep and overeat.
SAD is attributed to the lack of sunlight we are (not) exposed to in wintertime, so phototherapy and taking vitamin D supplements can often help you feel better.
SAD lasts much longer than the holiday blues, so if you don’t seem to be perking up in early January, you are probably suffering from the former.
A Health Condition or Lifestyle Cause
If you’re feeling sluggish and have little to no will for anything, you might also have an underlying health condition. It doesn’t have to be as ominous as that sounds: a simple vitamin deficiency can sap your energy and make you feel borderline depressed.
Here are some of the most common causes of what you may mistakenly believe to be the holiday blues:
- Unstable glucose levels
- Vitamin B or D deficiency
- Side effects of prescription medication or herbal remedies
- Inconsistent caffeine intake
- Inadequate sleep quality
- Iron deficiency
- Underactive thyroid
- Too many daytime naps
- Too much exercise
There are many ways to combat your slowness and lack of holiday cheer too. For starters, you should get a physical to make sure you are healthy and that all of your vitamin and hormone levels are okay. This is the simplest first step, and it often uncovers the cause of your fatigue right away.
You should also explore ways to improve your metabolic health: keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol in check. This may mean getting a bit more exercise (just walking more can do wonders!) or slightly modifying your diet. Foods that are good for your mental health also happen to be good for your health in general, so you can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.
If you suffer from any mental health condition, including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, or OCD, your symptoms may worsen in the winter and as the holidays approach. If you’re feeling particularly lonely, even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a mental health challenge, you can be feeling quite blue too.
How to Improve Your Holiday Mood
Unless your dampened holiday mood is caused by a specific medical condition (in which case you need to address that), there are several things you can try to lift your spirits and make yourself feel a bit better.
For starters, don’t give yourself a hard time if you are not in the festive spirit. You don’t (and can’t possibly) be joyful for a month straight. There will be great days and there will be off days, so don’t set the bar too high for yourself. Always remember that mood fluctuations, especially in the winter, are perfectly normal.
There will likely be more things to do than usual, so try to manage your task list better. Only RSVP to the parties you genuinely want to attend and see the people you really want to spend some time with. Don’t feel bad about saying no, and don’t try to do more than is humanly possible.
Don’t forget to pause when you feel you need to. Whether it’s a self-care ritual or a battery recharge break, it will help you make it through the holiday season. And don’t beat yourself up for not being productive. Rest is a part of getting things done, and you can’t expect to pour from an empty cup.
Make time for the hobbies and pastimes you actually enjoy, even if they aren’t all that festive. You don’t only need to watch holiday movies or TV shows, and you don’t have to spend time baking and cooking festive meals. There is still room in your life for your regular activities, especially if they lift your spirits.
Make a conscious decision to eat better, get enough sleep and move your body. Even if you just get up every hour to stretch, you’ll notice you are feeling so much better.
If you are feeling a bit less energized and a bit more moody as the holidays approach, don’t worry too much. Most people are going through a similar experience, whether they feel comfortable admitting it or not.