Surviving the (Not So) Happy Holidays

by Dr. Rebecca Chatfield, Naturopathic Medical Doctor, The Mobile Health Doc

For many, the holidays represent joy and happy memories. For others, the holidays can be a painful time of the year bringing up grief, loss and unhappy memories.

Whether it’s struggling with feelings of loneliness, loss of a loved one or financial stress, there are a variety of reasons this season can be challenging. One survey by the American Psychology Association revealed 38% of people reported increased stress during the holidays.

Here are some tips and reframing techniques to help cope:

Increase self-care

Since our physical health is often closely tied to our emotional and mental health, an important way to enhance overall resilience is by sleeping seven to eight hours a night, eating a nutrient dense diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in sugars and processed foods and exercising. According to one clinical study, as little as 30 minutes of exercise can provide an immediate mood boost similar to the effects of antidepressant medication.

Get connected

With social isolation being one of the biggest predictors for depression, it is important to stay connected socially. If you don’t have family or friends for support, join a group with similar interests (i.e. crafts, hiking, sports). Volunteering at a soup kitchen, organizing a gift drive or helping someone in your community can bring a sense fulfillment.

Get out in nature

Going for a walk in the park or on a nature trail can help shift a difficult mood and bring about more calm and relaxation.


Daily journaling can serve as an outlet to release painful emotions that may not be easy to share with others.

Set realistic expectations for yourself and the holiday season

One of the first steps in coping with holiday stress is giving yourself permission to allow for emotions other than happiness and joy. Don’t give in to holiday pressures, don’t be afraid to turn down events and be willing to communicate with others about what you are and aren’t up for.

If you are going through a difficult time during the holidays, you are not alone.

Enhancing your health and integrating new tools can make any difficult season more manageable. If you are experiencing feelings of sadness or anxiety for long periods of time seek out the care of an integrative health care provider and/or mental health specialist.