Making it through the Holiday Blues
Kirsti A. Dyer MD, MS, FT
Adjunct Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences

While the holidays are traditionally a time when people are merry and happy, for some, the holiday season can be very challenging. This time of year can create financial, emotional, psychological, and physical stress that leaves many people feeling sad, lonely, reflective, anxious, and blue.

What are the Holiday Blues?

Even good old Charlie Brown cannot escape feeling blue at the holidays as he confides to his pal Linus, "I just don’t understand Christmas. Instead of feeling happy, I feel sort of let down." It is very likely that Charlie Brown is experiencing a case of the holiday blues.

The holidays blues are feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression, and anxiety that occur in and around the holiday season.1, 2 A variety of factors can contribute to these feelings during the holidays. Some of the factors include:3

  • Increased stress and anxiety
  • Increased financial pressures
  • Over-commercialization of the season
  • Unrealistic expectations of a perfect holiday
  • Friction within the family
  • Inability to be with family
  • A flurry of obligatory holiday parties
  • Memories of past holiday celebrations
  • Exhaustion from trying to do it all
  • Change in diet or in daily routines

The main contributors to the holiday blues can be summed up as the “Five Fs”:

    1. Finances
    2. Family
    3. Festivities
    4. Fatigue
    5. Food

Those at Risk for the Holiday Blues

There are many reasons why someone might experience the blues during the holidays, though certain circumstances and life situations can increase the risk of going through these feelings. Those most at risk for experiencing the holiday blues include people who have experienced any of the following:4

  • a death in the family
  • financial setbacks during the year or the holidays
  • separation from loved ones at the holidays with work, military obligations, or other reasons
  • other major losses, such as moving or life-changing medical diagnosis
  • a major change in lifestyle, such as marriage, divorce, a new baby, or retirement
  • normal feelings of depression, stress, or anxiety outside of the holidays

For many people, simply learning to recognize common triggers that typically lead to the holiday blues can help stop such triggers or at least lessen their effect.5

Symptoms of the Holiday Blues

According to an article by writers at the University of Maryland’s Medical Center 6 the symptoms of the holiday blues often include:

  • Headaches
  • Problems sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite that cause weight loss/gain
  • Anxiety or distress
  • Excessive or misplaced feelings of guilt
  • Diminished ability to concentrate
  • Decreased interest in activities that are normally enjoyable...


Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

another brian hill design