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Coping with stress and the holiday blues

Victoria Bustamante Avellaneda, Psy.D. | 12/19/2013, 9 a.m.
Q. What are the “holiday blues?” A. The holiday season is in full swing: shopping, cooking, planning trips and cleaning ...

Q. What are the “holiday blues?”

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Victoria Bustamante Avellaneda, Psy.D.

A. The holiday season is in full swing: shopping, cooking, planning trips and cleaning in anticipation of visitors. Layering those activities on top of a daily workload and family responsibilities can be challenging. All of our thoughts and feelings are heightened during this intense time of the year, and they can bring stress and depression instead of happiness.

Q. Why am I depressed when this is supposed to be a happy time of year?

A. The winter holiday season is filled with celebrations and social gatherings for family, friends and co-workers. It’s expected that these activities will foster happiness, friendliness, fellowship and harmony. It is considered: “the best time of the year.” However, this is can be an unrealistic expectation in our society.  For some people, this time of year is a catalyst for increased loneliness, stress and even sadness. Combined with financial pressures and too many commitments, the distress may be intensified by damaging self-reflection and reminders of “happier times,” before the family quarrel or loss of a loved one. These feelings of loss, separation and grief can make it difficult during the holidays. 

Q. What are the symptoms of the holiday blues?

Symptoms can include emotional sadness, anxiety, irritability and physical symptoms such as headaches, changes in sleep patterns and conflict with family and friends.

Q. What can I do to feel better?, Be creative and set realistic goals and expectations, make the best of what you have, don’t break the bank, Do not over-indulge, stay busy, participate in your community and help someone else and look for support groups.

Victoria Bustamante Avellaneda, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist at Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital.