Holiday Blues Could Be Worsened by Ongoing Pandemic and Last into the New Year

December 21, 2021

While the holiday season is a joyful time for many people, especially for those who are able to reunite with friends and family after long separations due to the pandemic, this is unfortunately not the case for many other individuals. Traveling to see loved ones is still not feasible for a significant number of people, due to COVID-related and other health issues, as well as financial restrictions. In addition, individuals who have lost loved ones, whether caused by COVID or other factors, may be dreading the holiday season as they feel the absence of those who were close to them more acutely than at other times of the year.

The blues can occur not only during the holidays, but also before and afterwards. Beforehand, the blues could be attributed to holiday-related stress. Afterwards, they could be a result of any of the following factors: "crashing" after the emotional and stressful holiday season; recovering from excessive eating, which is a common part of celebrations; adjusting to being back at work; and feeling general sadness because the fun times have ended and there may be a long wait to again reunite with loved ones. Regarding food, "sadness, irritability and fatigue are common following excessive consumption of sugar," Dr. Wentz noted.

Self-Care Helps Mitigate the Blues
"Self-care is critical at all times and may be more difficult to focus on during the holiday season, which is often emotionally trying and stressful. To mitigate the pressure that many feel during this time of year, individuals are encouraged to manage their expectations of the holidays; set realistic goals that can increase their happiness; continue normal routines as much as possible; and try to not feel obligated to participate in all social gatherings - especially those with people who may trigger depression, anxiety or other negative emotions - or exceed their budgets buying costly gifts for friends and relatives," said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA).

"Taking care of ourselves also must include recognizing and addressing depression and anxiety. If self-care techniques such as exercise and other diversionary activities are not effective and the emotions increasingly interfere with everyday life, seeking professional help should be considered," Dr. Wentz added. Providers of mental health care and substance use treatment throughout New Jersey can be found on NJAMHAA's website.

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