What is holiday stress?

In Great Britain the word "holiday" has the same meaning as vacation. Many Americans would find this comparison laughable. For most of us, the holidays come with our own "to-do" lists.

Too often we take holiday stress for granted. What's worse, we often have higher expectations for this season than for any other time of the year. Planning for the holidays can leave us feeling impatient, cranky, and — in some cases — depressed. When the realities of day-to-day life conflict with our efforts to make the holiday season perfect, stress results.

What are the holiday blues?

For some of us, the holidays can be a depressing time when we get the holiday blues. Feelings of sadness, loneliness, and anger can intensify when contrasted with the joy expected of the holidays. Factors that can contribute to holiday depression include:

  • Associating the holidays with unresolved family issues or a painful childhood.
  • Ignoring feelings of sadness, loneliness, or depression in an effort to maintain "holiday cheer."
  • Facing the loss of a loved one with whom you have shared the holidays.
  • Having unrealistic expectations of family and friends.
  • Having an expectation that you "should" feel good.
  • Being away from family and friends.
  • Feeling isolated from others.
  • Reflecting on losses or disappointments over the past year.
  • Coping with changes in family obligations, particularly after a recent marriage or divorce.
  • Drinking more alcohol, which is often more readily available during the holidays. (Avoid drinking alcohol to ward off negative feelings. Alcohol often will make depression worse.)

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