When Holiday Blues Overshadow the Christmas Spirit

Celebrating Advent at church, decorating, baking, wrapping … It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?! Not always.

Many people experience a rise in anxiety, stress, and sadness during the season. Christians included. Just because we know the hope manifested in the birth of our Savior doesn’t mean all is calm and bright.

We live in a fallen world where any number of things threaten our peace. And Christmas can feel especially shaky as we face internal struggles and external pressures.

Common causes of holiday blues:

  • Absence of loved ones
  • Loneliness
  • Difficult family dynamics
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Money problems
  • Comparison
  • Exhaustion
  • Seasonal affective disorder

A lot of emotions are tied to this list: grief, hurt, uncertainty, and pride, to name a few. But as we focus on the profound truth of Immanuel, God with us, we take the first steps toward reclaiming peace.

How to restore the Christmas spirit

  • Remember what matters: Jesus. No family is perfect, and reality rarely lives up to expectations. Talk through what makes Christmas most meaningful to you and those closest to you. Find ways to celebrate together and ways to give each other space for personal reflection.    
  • Simplify. You don’t have to buy presents for everyone, and you don’t have to attend every party. Connecting with family and friends should be about love and laughter, not appearances. Practicing simplicity isn’t being lazy; it’s having a humble and sincere heart. It’s approaching Christmas — and every day — with no need to manipulate or impress.
  • Take care of yourself.  Let yourself enjoy holiday treats and selected get-togethers, but also make exercise, healthy meals, and adequate sleep part of your routine. And keep in mind that there’s a difference between holiday blues and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression caused by the change of seasons. If Christmas and the after-holiday “blahs” pass and you’re still feeling anxious or depressed, see your doctor.
  • Reach out to others. You could serve behind the scenes in a homeless shelter, spend time one-on-one with nursing home residents, or leave cookies and a handwritten note for your mail carrier. Offering encouragement in any form has a positive impact on everyone involved. It reduces loneliness, meets community needs, and brings to life the purpose of God’s comfort in our lives.

Hope in the darkness

Take heart: The “good news of great joy” when Light entered the world’s darkness didn’t end with the first Christmas. Ask God for wisdom to address your holiday blues. He knows your despair and will be your peace as you turn to Him.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

“Christmas Bells”
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Want to dig deeper? Consider reading When Holidays Hurt and Loving My Actual Christmas, and listening to Focus on the Family’s broadcast “Family Dynamics During the Holidays.”