Tips for Beating the Holiday Blues

It is no accident the Merle Haggard song “If We Make it Through December” was a big hit. Every year a number of people get the ‘blues’ around the holidays. There are many reasons people may go through holiday ‘blues.’ Beyond normal stress, low energy, money concerns, and demands of the season, Veterans often have added pressures. Parties and large family gatherings can cause stress for those with PTSD. Many Veterans are diabetic, and events centered on food can add to feelings of loss. Hospitalization or illness can lead to feelings of isolation.

Simple things you can do to help manage holiday blues:

  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help. Let others share in planning for events.
  • Make a list. Organize your time. Save time for yourself!
  • Get enough rest. It is difficult to cope when you are tired.
  • Look toward the future. Do not dwell on the past. Each holiday season is unique and should be enjoyed.
  • Enjoy free holiday activities. Look at holiday lights, go window-shopping, or take in a community or church program.
  • Spend time with people you care about. Reach out and make new friends. Contact someone you have not heard from in a while.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. Recognize and accept that both good and bad feelings may occur during the holidays. This is normal.
  • Set limits. It is easy to overindulge around the holidays. Maintain a balanced diet. Do not drink too much alcohol. Drinking alcohol may increase your feelings of depression.
  • Consider volunteering. Remember the spirit of giving for the holidays. You can help at a non-profit organization. You can visit a shut-in. Your VA Voluntary Service has many opportunities to touch the lives of Veterans.

While holiday blues are common, it is important to prevent these blues from becoming clinical depression. In both holiday blues and clinical depression, you feel tired, sad, and have difficulty sleeping (insomnia). The blues seldom lasts beyond the holidays or longer than two weeks. If these feelings are severe or long lasting, please call your health care team.

If you are feeling depressed, call someone. Talk to a friend, family member, clergy or healthcare provider. At every VA hospital there is a Chaplain available to talk. If you have feelings of despair, or afraid you might hurt yourself or someone else please call the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK, and press 1. Remember it is common for people to be blue during the holidays. The VA has people who know how to help you manage these feelings.