Holiday Blues – It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so why am I sad?

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 1:21–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so why am I sad? To be clear, there is a profound difference in the holiday blues and clinical depression. Depression can eat you up from the inside out. It’s like a monster inside your head that has the capability to take over the remainder of your body. Depression can be as mild as mood altering and serious as leaving an individual unable to complete daily self-care. What’s worse, depression and anxiety can function as a vicious cycle (one leading to the other and vice-versa). Depression can leave a person with no motivation and during the holiday season can be especially debilitating.

Whether you personally resonate with this description or you know someone who does, depression is real. Depending on the level of severity, some people’s symptoms have potential to prevent them from engaging with any measure of comfort or ease in conversations or activities. Although there are different levels and severity of depression, there is no “one size fits all,” which leads to additional difficulties during the holidays.

There are many causes for increased sadness around the holiday season, but a few of the most common might be comparison, fatigue, fear of social connection, tense and awkward family related issues, unrealistic expectations, grief and loss, financial issues, or seasonal affective disorder. Often times, even the blues may stem from a culmination of problems.

If you are struggling it’s important you do your best to pinpoint signs and symptoms. Simply put, ask for help! If you are merely support as family or a friend, you have an opportunity to ask questions, attempt to meet a need, and offer understanding by verbally acknowledging your support. However, for clinical depression it is important you seek professional help and it’s smart to begin with your primary care physician. In addition, the individual should seek to:

  • recruit others to help in areas that might be overwhelming during the holidays
  • give herself time to recharge and re-engage with large groups
  • eat regularly and consume healthy meals
  • practice good sleep hygiene for optimal rest
  • exercise (outdoors if and when possible)
  • volunteer or serve in her local church to take focus off self and onto others

This time of year can be a huge source of stress and pressure for people – Many times discontentment, disappointment, and feelings of inadequacy are looming just below the surface. With a little daily intentionality, prayer, sensitivity, and compassion, we can survive the holidays with our Christian witness in tact.

The people who walked in darkness 

have seen a great light; 

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, 

on them has light shone.  – Isaiah 9:2