holiday blues
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Combating the Holiday Blues

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This post was written by the Ad Council's Catherine Chao, Director of Strategy and Evaluation, and Kennedy Patlan, Assistant Campaign Manager.

The end of the year is near, and so are the holidays! In a culture that is fascinated by the holidays, this season can sometimes feel overwhelming or stifling. From Mariah Carey tracks on repeat to endless sales, the mainstream narrative is that the holidays have to be the most wonderful time of the year.

As co-leaders of the Ad Council's Health & Wellness Employee Resource Group we decided to shed some light on what the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) calls the "Holiday Blues."

The "Holiday Blues" is defined as feelings of anxiety or depression that can be associated with extra stress, unrealistic expectations and memories that accompany the season. In NAMI's poll on holiday blues, 64 percent of respondents said they were affected by this feeling.

From processing a loss in the family to thinking through how to navigate difficult conversations at the dinner table, here are some tips and tools to consider during the holidays.

Family & Interpersonal Dynamics

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Natalie Gutierrez, a New York-based licensed marriage and family therapist, said that visiting family over the holiday break can "bring up emotional triggers around painful memories, violation of boundaries [and] unrealistic expectations that family may have put on someone."

If you are feeling anxious about going home for the holidays, view the graphic below to see a few healthy holiday boundaries recommended by Dr. Nicole LaPera that could help.

Holiday Boundaries

Financial Stressors

Holiday gift-wrapping

Whether you are traveling or trying to make sure that everyone gets the gift they want, financial strain is especially common during this time of year. To reduce financial stress and anxiety, try establishing and communicating ground rules - both for yourself and those around you. If you are nervous about your finances this season, try gifting something homemade, give the gift of quality time, or propose a good old gift exchange for family and friends to divvy up the purchasing costs.

Communicating to Others

When it comes to scenarios that may bring you anxiety or stress, try using "I Statements" so that you can talk through your emotions with family and friends, if you are comfortable. If you may not be ready to talk to others, consider journaling or expressing your emotions in an alternative way that allows you to process how you are feeling.

Practicing Self-Care

Self Care during holidays

We can ultimately only control our own behaviors and reactions. So don't forget to practice self compassion and self care during this time of year. Here are a few tools to get you started:

  • Physical Exercise: Even though it's cold, winter is full of recreational activities to try. Go ice skating, try snow tubing or take a walk around the neighborhood. There are lots of holiday 5Ks and activities for you and your loved ones to enjoy!
  • Reflection: The holidays can bring a lot of emotions with it, but try to use this time to think about what you're looking forward to. What are you thankful for? What are you excited for? Think about the thoughts and emotions that arise for you, and embrace the positive energy during the times you may need it most.
  • Time: In a season of material gifting and receiving, try to take advantage of the gift of time, which can be just as special! Pay it forward by volunteering, or spend quality time with loved ones. Also, find time to take care of yourself and decompress from the business of the holiday season. Take a break from social media, cuddle up with a book, light a candle and get that face mask on! Visit here to see some grounding techniques that can be applicable to any season.

This time of year can be overwhelming, but always remember to give yourself grace and be proud of yourself for prioritizing your own mental and physical wellness!


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