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Why Do I Feel So Much More Depressed During the Holidays?

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

The holidays are here. School’s out and you have plenty of free time. You’re supposed to be happy and cheerful. You’re supposed to enjoy good food and enjoy your family. And you’re supposed to give and receive gifts. But wait – there’s more. You’re supposed to be grateful for everything you have. Plus, you’re supposed to give every relative you see a big hug, and you’re supposed to greet every stranger in every store with a smile and an excited “Happy Holidays!”

Tis the season to be jolly!

The Most. Wonderful. Time. Of. The. Year.

Except for one thing: it’s not.

More like, tis the season to be grumpy. The Most Horrible Time of the Year. The only person you can relate to is The Grinch, and as wrong as it is, you’re on his side: when those Whos Down in Whoville start singing, all you want to do is make it stop.

But why?

Why are the Holidays Sooooo Depressing?

We’ll tell you. With three real things.

Depressing Holiday Thing #1: You Can’t Force Happy

Speaking of The Force, there’s one real reason to be happy this December. The New Star Wars Movie is out! If that doesn’t cheer you up, there’s no hope for you.


Seriously. One of the reasons the holidays can be depressing is because everyone out there is acting like you have to be happy. School parties: pretend you like the gifts and the gross cupcakes. Relatives: pretend you like your cheeks pinched. Christmas carols: for the millionth time, pretend you looooove singing Jingle Bells – oh what fun it isn’t!

Fake it til you make it, right?

You know yourself well enough by now to know that when someone tells you that you have to do or be something, you’re likely to do or be the opposite. So when all the holiday lights, all the green and red decorations and silver tinsel in every single store push you to the edge, and when that final little thing drives you insane – like the pleasant jingle of the Salvation Army – remember this: rebelling against that is natural.

And honestly, you don’t have to fake it. You don’t have to force your happy.

Depressing Holiday Thing #2: Family Stuff

Whether you realize it or not, the holidays are loaded with both good and bad emotions. It’s impossible not to think about great holidays from when you were little, and be sad it’s not like that any longer. It’s also impossible not to think of bad holidays, if you’ve had them – and be angry they ever happened.

If you were close with grandparents who’ve passed away, that can make you sad. If you’ve moved recently, you may miss your old friends and wish you could see them. That can make you sad.

And the thing is, all this can be happening inside of you without you knowing it. A sight, smell, or sound triggers a memory and emotion, your conscious brains squashes it, and the result – you’re bummed out and don’t know why.

Depressing Holiday Thing #3: Tis the Season for Depression. No, Really – Tis.

Time for some facts.

Winter: cold weather and shorter days. Some people love bundling up in their sweaters and sitting in front of the fire. They love that it gets cold and dark by 5:00 pm. But for others – you, maybe – cold and dark is depressing. It’s simple: less outside time and less sunlight can mean less fun. That’s not rocket science.

Holiday Break: you throw your regular schedule of eating, sleeping, social contact, and exercise (if you play sports) out the window. You may not realize it, but a regular routine of food, sleep, social interaction, and exercise forms the foundation for happiness. When you disrupt that, you disrupt your emotions, too.

Plus, there’s this thing called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) you might want to read up on. Click the link and learn something new.

How To Beat Holiday Depression

Know it’s coming. If depression tends to get you over the holidays, prepare yourself. Go over the list above and if anything might possibly apply to you, then prepare yourself to handle it. The best way to handle it? Talk to your friends. Have an uncensored venting session about how much the holidays suck in your world. Make up your own holiday rituals. Have an Anti-Holiday party. Bring balance to the Force – in your own way. Close the door to your room and make up inappropriate lyrics to every holiday song you know. Let loose. Get it all out. Chances are your friends feel the same way you do, and there’s nothing like bonding over common gripes to get them out of your system.

You’ll probably end up laughing so hard your sides hurt – and guess what?

That’s kind of the whole point of the season.

Teen Christmas FTW!

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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