Christmas is a joyous time of the year when people huddle together in the cold weather, exchanging gifts, enjoying food and wine, and spending time with the ones they love. If tis really the season to be jolly, why is it that depression, stress and anxiety worsen during the holiday season? The term “holiday blues” refers to a lingering sadness experienced around the time of Christmas and other festivals. But experts think it’s not just an urban legend and that there could be a grain of truth in the belief.
Why Christmas Makes You Sad
Maybe our mood does worsen around the time of holidays. Dr Era Dutta, Consultant Neuropsychiatrist, Mind Wellness can think of a few reasons why.
Being Away From Family
Everyone wants to be surrounded by family during festive seasons. The thought of having to spend the holiday alone can be distressing to anyone. “If you can’t be with your family during Christmas, that could cause some sadness,” says Dr Dutta. According to PO Peretti, one of the commonest reasons for depression during Christmas is the belief in the myth that everyone but you is having a good time with their families.
Being With The Family
The converse case is also possible where family itself becomes a stressor. “Certain topics come up during the time of festivities. Some sensitive topics can be broached by family members like the issue of someone getting married, or not having a baby, which can add to the stress,” Dr Dutta says. Can Positive Thinking Cure Depression?
Sometimes, people set themselves up for failure by thinking that they’d be having a jolly time during the festival, and their hopes may be dashed. The actual celebration may turn out to be a damp squib. “The unrealistic expectation that you’re going to be very happy will disappoint you. Because in reality, the real experience may be mellow… or just meh,” quips Dr Dutta.
Change of Routine
During the holiday season, your whole routine can go for a toss. You may be pigging out, partying or drinking more than usual during the regular days. “A change of routine may not lead to depression. But straying from your usual drill can be bad if you have depressive tendencies,” says Dr Dutta.
SAD is an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to National Institute of Health, SAD “is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.” According to Dr Dutta, winter and cold weather has a lot to do with depression. In the colder seasons, one feels gloomier and less active. One also tends to eat more. Christmas corresponds with the SAD season, which could explain why some feel depressed during the holidays.
The picture-perfect images shared by people you follow on social media can also exacerbate your mood, according to Dr Dutta. It can fuel the false belief that others have a better time than you are. She says, “Everyone is trying to live a perfect Christmas, which all leads to comparisons.”
How To Improve Your Mood During Christmas
Dr Dutta believes that some tips can come in handy during the gloomy phases.
Don’t expect some miracle to happen that will turn your foul mood over. Christmas celebrations this year may be underwhelming. But there’s no need for you to feel low about it. So don’t raise your expectations too much.
Keeping a routine is essential for people facing depression. “Eat healthily. A few cheat meals are OK. After Christmas or Diwali, people feel a little depressed after they add on a few kilos. So be a little mindful of your eating and drinking,” the doctor says. Understanding 5 Shocking Facts About Depression and Suicides in Men.
Staying Away From Mean Relatives
Don’t be confrontational with relatives you don’t get along with. “Even if they bring up trigger topics, prepare yourself. Because you will come face-to-face with an aunt you don’t like,” says Dr Dutta.
Holidays can be hard on some of us. If it gets worse, don't hesitate to pay your psychologist a visit.