The Holidays & Depression: Know the Signs

holiday socks on scale

While the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be joyful, the endless to-do lists and obligations often seem overwhelming and can easily cause feelings of depression.

Fatigue. Stress. Unrealistic expectations. Money concerns. Relationship issues. Loneliness. These healthiness hazards can spell trouble for anyone, but are especially troublesome for those prone to depression.

Understanding what can trigger depression and anxiety and taking steps to manage these issues, can help make your holiday a little happier. Here are a couple of our favorite ways to get through the holiday season:


The pressure of trying to do everything, and do it perfectly, can be enough to send anyone into a tail spin. This heightened pressure of the holidays is a common trigger for depression. To get past this, set realistic goals and expectations and be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot accomplish. There are only so many hours in a day, and only so many things that are within your control. Ask others for help if you need to and understand that unless you are Martha Stewart, everything does not need to be perfect.


Maybe it's your family, maybe it is friends. No matter who it is, don't be afraid to reach out. This isn’t just the time of year to surround yourself with loved ones, it’s also the time to lean on your support system. And if you feel like you don't have a support system, there is always someone to talk to on the 24-hour RWJBarnabas Health Access Center Line at 1-800-300-0628.


When you’re feeling lonely or excluded, everyone else’s happy holiday party photos and posts on Facebook can feel like a punch in the gut. It’s important to remember that what you see on social media is an edited selection of someone’s life. For instance, someone may post, "We had 20 people for a beautiful family dinner!" but they leave out the part about the heated argument that ruined dessert, or being stressed about the cost of feeding so many people.


Taking care of yourself is the number one thing you need to do this holiday season. If you are starting to feel depressed or overwhelmed, take a short break. Do something like go for a walk or sit in a quiet place for 15 minutes or so to help clear your mind. And remember that it’s normal to cry every now and then: Everyone experiences feelings of sadness or grief. Expressing your feelings will help you to work through them. If you are feeling overwhelmed, make a To Do list and vigorously prioritize it. This will help you to feel more in control of everything you want to accomplish, and can help keep you on track without sacrificing your peace of mind.

If you feel like you have lost control over your emotions and are feeling overwhelming feelings of sadness or depression, you should seek immediate medical help. If you need help coping with holiday stress or depression, please call the 24-hour Access Line at 1-800-300-0628.