With the approach of the holiday season, excitement and anticipation abound and so do ‘holiday blues’, or a temporary condition that can cause feelings of heightened stress, dread, fatigue, agitation and mild sadness or depression.
“The time when people typically get the blue is during the holiday and often because someone is lonely,” said Dr Janet Belsky, a lifespan development expert, author and assistant professor of psychology at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU).
The annual holidays that occur during November and December, in fact, “are probably the most stressful time of the year, because it’s expensive, you have a lot to do, and on top of it all, you’re supposed to have a great time, which can be a big problem,” she continued.
“Many people have holiday parties to host or attend, and you are expected to have a great time no matter what,” she remarked, “and that in itself can be a stressor.”
Still, there is no lone culprit when it comes to determining the No. 1 cause of the holiday blues, because a number of things can trigger the seasonal sadness, from a focus on overspending and seeing people or family members one does not want to see, to missing someone who is no longer in one’s life.
“One of the problems is that the holidays are supposed to be this great time, an expectation thing,” Belsky explained. “Like when it’s your birthday, you start to get an expectation that all is going to be great, but really, the holidays are often a time when people think about what’s missing in their lives.”
Moreover, she surmised, it is likely that women encounter the annual holiday rut most often.
“Because women are more of the social species, they may be more susceptible to experiencing this kind of blues,” Belsky explained. “In terms of gender roles, women are generally expected or asked to do more such as cooking, party planning, shopping and so forth, and when you add that to their other responsibilities, it can be overwhelming.”
Nonetheless, gender is not the determining factor when it comes to experiencing a blue Christmas, for men endure such feelings, too. The primary male stress trigger, in fact, is more likely associated with who isn’t with them during the holiday festivities, she noted.
“Men may have more potential to have problems if they are not with someone they may long to be with, be it family or friends,” she said.
For example, “Sometimes, they may not be able to go back home for the holidays in general, because of work or some other reason, and in such cases, not seeing who you want to see can be a problem.”