Banish the Holiday Blues

Written by: Calvalyn Day, MsED

Turkey will all the trimmings around a harvest inspired table. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. The holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time, but many people limp through the occasion from house to house dreading ever minute.

Recently, I was speaking with a colleague who had told his out of town family he would be working over the Thanksgiving weekend to avoid the trip out of state for the festivities. He felt compelled to give an excuse for the fact that between the travel and lack of engaging family activities he had things he was more interested in doing than making a 4 hour drive for dry turkey.

Another colleague had already resolved himself to the fact that he and his fiancé would be up close to dawn and on the road between SIX different homes before 10pm to make sure that all of his family felt equally, but separately, loved.

Maybe your life isn’t as complicated as these two, but it’s quite possible that you too may have some apprehensions about the holiday season. Whether it’s the stress of getting just the right gift, increased financial pressures or even unresolved grief over the family that is no longer here to celebrate, holiday blues is more common than you might expect.

But misery doesn’t have to be on the menu. Here’s a few tips to get you closer to a holiday state of mind.

Set your intention. If you plan to survive, you will probably do just that, and only that. Pretending that everything will be perfect can also set you up for a big letdown. Set your intention with a balanced viewpoint of the holiday festivities, and mentally prep yourself for the challenges that may come. Begin by doing a mental review of what has happened in years past, and check for places where a little more prep can improve the outcomes. Think, planning a nap for the toddlers or bringing a simple snack for when dinner isn’t ready on time. Next, where you can’t control the outcome, plan for some healthy coping strategies to reduce your stress. An after dinner walk for example can release a few extra endorphins to improve your mood and help you feel better after the holidays when you don’t have that extra 8 pounds many of us gain.

Avoid burnout. One big mistake people make for the holidays is trying to do too much. It’s not always possible to squeeze in one more thing. Plan ahead for moments of quiet and reflection which will do wonders for your mood. Many people struggle with being present and enjoying the moments of the holiday season because they’re simply too exhausted, mentally or emotionally. Introverts, for example, can feel energy depleted after a big family gathering. Make space for your own time to recharge. This might mean staying at a hotel so you can have a moment of quiet or even opting out of the Black Friday or day after Christmas afternoon shopping so you can give the kids a nap and avoid the 5pm meltdown. Plan where you will get the most from plugging in and don’t be afraid to unplug when you need to.

Banish the holiday hangover. When a couple of my older kids were younger, we always had an after holiday slump. The exuberance of 30+ family members laughing and reminiscing is electric. Then afterwards there’s a whole lot of nothing. Cold weather, less daylight and fewer natural opportunities to connect with family creates the perfect breeding ground for mood dips and can cause depression symptoms to peak. Spend some time practicing gratitude, focusing on complaining less or even creating something new with some of that time you may have free. Our family has a gratitude jar we fill through the year, after the holidays is a great time to review the contents and allow that boost of thankfulness to bring your mood back to a level you can live with.

Calvalyn specializes in individual and group counseling strategies with children and teens, parent coaching, and educational consulting. Calvalyn is a passionate advocate for families with special needs and can consult with you via phone or Skype. To learn more about Calvalyn’s services and how she can meet your family’s needs, email Calvalyn at or call her at the office at 317-471-8996.