Holiday Blues: Tips, Tricks and Triggers

Mild depression from holiday stressors can be avoided

(RxWiki News) Not everyone looks forward to the holidays. The desire to stay in bed or eat through plates of cookies can take over. But there are ways to avoid the holiday blues and enjoy the season.

A psychology professor outlines some causes of holiday blues and survival tips to guide people to take better care of themselves and ultimately enjoy and relax during the break.

The holidays can be overwhelming. Being aware of stressors and triggers, and doing a little self-maintenance can help keep spirits up this holiday season.

"Don't forget to take care of your own needs during the holidays."

Colleen Carney, PhD, professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, has developed a guide to help prevent feeling down over the holidays.

Foster realistic expectations and relax:

No time of year, including the holidays, is perfect. Keep a realistic set of expectations to avoid getting disappointed. Use the holidays to take a breather. A few days off work can be a present—enjoy the free time and relax.


The holidays can make people feel isolated. Spending time alone can, when feeling lonely, make those feelings worse. That said, Dr. Carney recommends spending time with supportive friends or relatives and limiting time with people who tend to make you feel badly.


The holidays are not a single day affair, but rather an entire season—think of them like a marathon. Spend as much time with family and planning the celebrations as is comfortable. When the stress of demands becomes too much, it may be time to step away and take a break.

Easy on indulgence:

Holidays are known for eating and drinking special foods and drinks. Though the special once-a-year treats have their place, stopping before they cause discomfort is important. Stomach aches, heartburn, trouble sleeping, feeling tired mid-day and so forth can all come from eating and drinking too many treats. Take care to watch your intake.

Your needs matter:

It’s nearly impossible to make everyone happy during the holidays. If a sense of dread shadows holidays for you, book a vacation instead. Family members may voice disappointment or even disapproval, but taking care of your needs is important too.

Don’t overspend:

Financial stress can contribute to getting down over the holidays. Make a realistic budget for gifts, travel and food, and stick to it. There will always be next year, so there’s no need to go into debt for an event that happens every year.

Reach out for help if needed:

The holiday blues are just that—a couple of weeks of feeling a bit off. If the blues transition into depression and depression lasts longer than two weeks, it’s time to see a therapist. 

This commentary was published in December on

Review Date: 
December 18, 2012