How to Cope with Feeling Stressed and Sad Around the Holidays

It’s that time of year again.  The Holidays.  While there are many people who consider the holidays their favorite time of year, there are also many others that become very depressed and sad around the holidays.  Stress can take over any of us, but for some it is even more stressful to deal with the holiday season.  It is especially hard to cope with holiday blues for those dealing with financial burdens, loss of a job, loss of a relationship or divorce, illness, or the death of a loved one.

“Holiday blues are a pretty common problem despite the fact that as a society, we see the holidays as a joyous time,” says Rakesh Jain, MD.  People can actually begin to feel sad, anxious, lonely, or stressed because of the added pressure to feel particularly involved and cheerful during this time in November and December, even if you aren’t up for it.

It’s hard to balance everything when there are tough times to face, and it may be unrealistic to think you should be able to handle it all.  This time of year can just seem to be too overwhelming.  But rather than give up and decide to “bah humbug” the holidays and retreat to feelings of stress, depression, or loneliness, try to help yourself get to a better place.

Here are some tips to help you cope through some of your holiday sadness:

Make Realistic Expectations for the Holiday Season

There is a certain expectation many people put into their heads that is often too unrealistic to attain, and consequently leads to feelings of sadness when these expectations are not met.  So rather than expect that everything should be as great as that one year long ago or for everything to go along unhitched, realize that there may be some difficult times, but you can overcome them.

Start New Holiday Traditions

This is an especially important tip for those who have lost a relationship, whether a lost friendship, breakup, or the death of someone you care about.  The holidays can be a reminder of what times used to be like with this person.  Although it is very hard to deal with grief and loss, it may be helpful to start looking for new things you can do during the holidays by creating new traditions instead of thinking only about old ones.

Volunteer at Local Community Centers or Programs

The act of giving is a great thing.  It not only helps the other person, but will give you a wonderful feeling of satisfaction and self-worth.  Volunteering can help take your mind off your problems and let you help others.

Exercise and Eat Healthy

Many studies show that exercise actually releases endorphins and can act similar to anti-depressant drugs.  Eating right and not overindulging is not only healthy, but it usually will get you in a better mood as your mind realizes you are doing something good for your body.  Give yourself some natural mood lifters by doing some exercise and eating a little healthier.

Look for the Positives and Forget about the Negatives

Okay, maybe easier said than done, but if you can catch yourself dwelling on all the bad things, you can turn it around.  Of course you will feel more depressed when you think about problems, heartache, disappointment, etc.  And it’s okay to acknowledge your feelings of sadness or pain and deal with them, but it isn’t healthy to dwell on them.  It often can cloud your view to see the good things that can be happening around you too.  Try to stop and think about something positive or what you are thankful for to help get you back on track.

depressed and sad during the holidays

If these tips seem to be too overwhelming or you still have feelings of depression, stress, anxiety, etc., it’s okay to reach out to someone who can help you get through it.  Counselors and Therapists are professionals that you can talk to confidentially to discuss your thoughts and feelings.  They are there to help people cope with anxiety, stress, loss and grief, relationships, and depression.  If you are in the Broward County/Coral Springs and surrounding area and would like a free therapy phone consultation from a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, please contact Susan Block, LMFT at or call 954-675-1936.