Holiday blues: triggers and survival tips


Happy holidays! It’s a common refrain, but for many people who have lost loved ones, gone through heartbreaks or are alone the holidays are not happy.

“There is this almost forced expectation in today’s society that we have to be happy during the holidays,” says Dr. Eugenio Rothe, professor of psychiatry and behavioral health at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. “And people who fail to meet that expectation can feel there is something wrong with them.”

From postcard-perfect portraits of family togetherness to endless hours at the malls shopping for gifts, holiday demands are common triggers for the holiday blues, those feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression and stress around holiday time.

Here are a few survival tips.


Going home for the holidays can be wonderful, but what happens if there is conflict in the family? If a loved one has passed, or there’s been a recent heartbreak; it also can be a sad and painful occasion. People who are alone for the holidays feel particularly left out.

SURVIVAL TIP: Manage your expectations. Do your own thing.
“The most important thing is to focus on your own reality: your needs, wishes, hopes and expectations,” says Rothe. “Don’t feel like you’re lacking if you don’t meet up to the fantasy images of holiday celebrations imposed by the media or society.”

The pressure of buying gifts, throwing a party, and/or fixing-up the house for the holidays can be overwhelming.

SURVIVAL TIP: Don’t get wrapped up in consumerism.
“If you want to buy someone a gift to show them you care for them, it doesn’t have to be expensive. It truly is the thought that counts, says Rothe.


Shopping, gift wrapping, party planning, holiday commitments, visiting relatives, travel and overindulging (eating and drinking) can all cause holiday stress. Rothe calls this the holiday treadmill where instead of enjoying the holidays, people exhaust themselves.

SURVIVAL TIP: Don’t overdo it. Remember the true spirit of the holidays.
“This is actually a good time for rest and self-reflection,’” says Rothe, who laments that the spiritual meaning of the holidays is often lost to the more commercial aspects of the season.

“This time of the year presents a wonderful opportunity to find important meanings that are relevant to your own life, and to the lives of those who are important to you,” he says.

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