Healthy Living

Tips for Coping with Seasonal Depression and Holiday Stress

02 December 2021

The holiday season is viewed as a time of year for celebrations with friends and family. However, for many individuals the holiday season can be extremely lonely and isolating, and those feelings may have worsened due to the pandemic.

There are several reasons why a person may experience depression, stress, or general feelings of sadness during the holiday season. For those who are experiencing social isolation, loneliness may become more heightened, while others may be grieving the physical loss of loved ones or continued separation from family and friends. Additionally, some individuals develop depression after the holiday season has ended, with some feeling upset if it did not meet expectations, or if they are disappointed in how the year went for them.

For others, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is brought on from a change in seasons. Many individuals who suffer from SAD begin to experience symptoms during the wintertime as they are spending more time indoors and there is less sunlight during the day. SAD is reoccurring for many sufferers and symptoms typically last four to five months before easing up in the springtime as the weather changes and the days get longer.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing holiday depression or SAD, it is important to monitor stress levels and keep an eye on demeanors. Behaviors that indicate someone may be struggling include excessive alcohol consumption, overeating, insomnia, fatigue or not enjoying activities that usually bring happiness. Below are some tips for coping with holiday stress and depression:

  • Be Realistic: You may feel pressure to attend every holiday event or gathering, which can become overwhelming and or result in feelings of guilt about missing functions. Remind yourself that it is impossible to do everything. If you are uncomfortable attending event, it’s fine to decline invitations. Additionally, if you are unable to see loved ones in person, try to create new traditions or moments rather than feeling that the holidays are ruined.

  • Acknowledge Your Feelings: If you are feeling depressed, it’s OK to express those sentiments and you do not need to force happiness just because it is the holidays. Don’t worry that by expressing your feeling you may bring down the mood for others. Instead, remember that your friends and family members are here to support you and want you to be OK, so it is important to be open and honest with them.

  • Find Different Ways to Remain Connected: If you are unable to see family or loved ones in-person this year, you can still find other ways to stay connected with them. Video meeting platforms make it easy to see others, even if it is through a screen. Picking up the phone or sending a holiday card are two other ways to feel connected with family and friends who are near or far. Additionally, if you know of someone who may be struggling this holiday season, reaching out to them with a holiday greeting can lift their spirts and remind them that you care. Even after the holidays are over, nurture those connections through routine check-ins with family and friends.

  • Make a Difference through Volunteering: Helping others by volunteering can be a very rewarding experience, especially during the holiday season. Finding an in-person or virtual volunteer opportunity will not only helps others by making a difference in someone else’s life, but can also increase your own happiness. Finding local organizations that offer volunteer opportunities also allow you to meet new people who have similar interests. You can also find small ways to help others in your community, such as helping a neighbor, donating non-perishable items to a food pantry or organizing a toy drive for children in need. Many charities are in need of year-round volunteers, so you can continue to offer your support even after the holidays end.

  • Lean on Others with Similar Experiences: Support groups are available in communities across the country and can help provide a sense of companionship for those who struggle not only during the holiday season, but all year long as well. There are support groups for many different afflictions, including mental health ailments, dependency issues or grief assistance. You can find a support group in your area here.

  • Speak with a Licensed Therapist or Professional: If you are concerned about the coping during the holiday season or believe you may suffer from SAD, Providence has a network of mental health professionals, licensed therapists and behavioral health providers who can provide support. Providence is proud to offer members an extensive telehealth network with providers across the Pacific Northwest who provide mental health support. Virtual video sessions provide members with the ability to speak with licensed therapists and psychiatrists from the comfort of their own homes.

You can access an in-network behavioral health provider in a few steps:

  • Log in to your myProvidence account

  • Click the provider directory to sort through and find providers in your area who offer mental and behavioral health services

  • Contact the provider to make an appointment - no referral required

To learn more about mental health services available from PHP, please visit: You can read the previous blog post in our mental health series here and here.

If you are in distress and need immediate help, The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is a national network of local crisis centers and provides free and confidential support to those in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. 

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