Coping with the Holiday Blues


Reframing Thinking to Help Combat the Holiday Blues

| By Jilesa Cowan, LSW

The word ‘holiday’ typically conjures up images of bright lights, ornaments, food and bright colors.

A piece that often goes undiscussed are the feelings of sadness and loneliness that sometimes come with the holiday season. 

Why Do the Holidays Make Some People Sad?

There are several factors that contribute to the increased feelings of sadness during the holidays. Some of these include:

  1. Financial stress: With the holidays often comes increased financial obligations. Feeling obligated to buy gifts and spend more money than usual, can contribute to an increase in stress levels and anxious feelings.
  2. Change in diet: With the holidays often comes increased alcohol intake and bigger portion sizes. 
  3. Isolation: While the holidays are a time for glee and joy for many, for some, it magnifies their current isolation and loneliness. Family conflicts and relationship issues are sometimes avoidable throughout the year, but during the holiday season, they can be magnified as we see those around us connect with their families and loved ones.
  4. Decreased sunlight: It goes without saying, during the fall and winter, we are less exposed to sunlight. Less sunlight and serotonin can lead to feelings of depression.
  5. Reflection and regret: With the closing of the year, we often reflect on our life and the year we’ve had. This reflection can sometimes lead to thoughts of inadequacy and regret. 

How Can We Cope With Holiday Sadness?

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge your feelings — whether they are feelings of sadness, frustration, or loneliness — acknowledge and verbalize them. Know that these are normal.

Having these feelings during what is typically a time of joy and excitement can be disheartening and may cause you to push them away, but please know, these feelings are normal for many people. 

Beyond that, there are a few common sense “life hacks” that can lessen your symptoms and help you find peace during this season.

  1. Set a budget. Setting a budget for activities and gifts helps to prevent feeling overextended while still giving you the opportunity to enjoy fun holiday activities.
  2. Say “no.” Another way to cope with the stressors during this time is being OK, saying “no.” It can be difficult saying no to our friends and families, especially during this time of the year, but it is important to recognize that spreading yourself too thin can do more harm than good. Take time to yourself, rest and do what you love with those you love. 
  3. Spend time with those you love, a group of coworkers, a chosen family. Spend time with those that add joy and love to your life. 
  4. Maintain your typical routine as best as possible. The change in temperature, hours of sunlight, increased alcohol and food intake can really affect our moods. Maintaining our typical routine helps to stay grounded.
  5. Practice gratitude. While reflecting on the life you have lived this year, it is important to reflect on events, people, and things you’re grateful for. We tend to focus on what has not happened or what we have missed out on, but celebrating our wins are just as important. 

The holidays can be a time of wonder and cheer, it can also be a time of sadness and isolation. If these feelings persist and become overwhelming and you find it difficult to cope, reach out for help. A counselor or therapist may be able to support you in your quest for gratitude.


Jilesa Cowan is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) with several years of experience working in the mental health field.


In her free time, she enjoys crafting, hanging out with friends and family, weightlifting and watching horror movies.

Check out Jilesa’s professional bio here!


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