Beat the holiday blues

By Julia Rhea, Southwest Mental Health Counselor

In the world of SnapChat updates and Pinterest projects, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the expectation that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the holiday season in general should be a joyous time of family and friends celebrating together. But for many people, the holidays are not always a time of excitement and happiness. Some may feel depressed, anxious, or lonely during this time. But why is that? There are many reasons that the holidays can cause someone to feel more depressed or anxious:

  • The pressure to always be Instagram ready and present a happy and merry image to the rest of the world. Obligations and high expectations can create stress during an already hectic time.
  • Unpleasant or painful memories from past holidays. Holidays don’t always come with happy reminders of the previous years. Be aware of these memories and how they may impact how you’re feeling.
  • Missing loved ones that aren’t there to celebrate. Grief and loss is hard during all times of the year, but holiday traditions that a loved one is now absent from can be especially difficult. It can also just mean missing someone that doesn’t live close by anymore.
  • Loneliness. If you’re expecting to be around others and spending time with friends and family, not having those people around can be more upsetting than normal.   
  • Financial difficulties. It can be disappointing to not be able to buy and do everything you want to.
  • Lack of sunlight. For some, the change in seasons affects them more than others. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically starts in the Fall and ends in the Spring.

If this hits home for you, here are some things that may help.

  • Recognize that it’s not wrong to feel the way that you’re feeling. Feeling guilty about feeling sad is only making you feel worse. It’s okay to not be okay.
  • Create new memories with new people. Reach out to friends and loved ones. Create new traditions. If you’re upset because you have to work Thanksgiving day create a new tradition of doing something that evening.
  • Seek out support networks. Many organizations and groups have holiday activities you can participate in.
  • Do something that makes you feel good. Volunteer, spend time with family, do something that keeps you busy.
  • Say no to things that may be upsetting for you. Don’t push yourself too hard and overcommit to things that you don’t have the time or energy for.
  • Schedule an appointment with a counselor. Southwest has a mental health counselor that offers free and confidential counseling to all students. Appointments can be made by calling (901) 333-5121 or emailing jrhea@southwest.tn.edu. The counselor is at the Union campus on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, the Macon campus on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the canters by appointment.