Holiday Anxiety and Depression: How to recognize it and what should you do?


Guest blogger: Karen R.. Compliance, Quality and Clinical Program Specialist

Many of us look forward to the holidays and the opportunity to celebrate and spend time with family and friends. For many, the holidays are truly a joyous time of the year.  However, for others, it can be a time filled with stress, anxiety and even depression.  While some may experience anxiety or depression during the holidays, others may not be affected until after the holidays are over. This time of year can cause some to feel overwhelmed, or filled with disappointment, regret or sorrow. This condition has become more formally known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is characterized by the fact that it takes place during a certain time of the year. It is also known as winter blues or winter depression.

Unlike some other forms of depression, this condition is often self-recognizable. Symptoms may include headaches, insomnia, withdrawal from social activities, fatigue, mood swings, sleeping too much and binge drinking or eating. There are risk factors that can contribute to depression that include life altering events such as loss of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce or perhaps an illness involving you or a loved one. Other risk factors may include financial challenges, job stress, lack of rest, poor nutrition or even excessive alcohol use.

Once you suspect you may be experiencing these symptoms, you should consult your health care provider who may be your primary care or family medicine physician. Most likely, they will conduct a routine exam and/or lab tests, review your family history or explore further to determine if your condition is seasonal or if it is something more serious that may require further care from a counselor or other mental health professional.

Once diagnosed, there are a variety of measures that may be used to treat your condition. One key factor in your treatment may be reducing the stress and anxiety associated with the holidays, such as:

  • Limiting social and other activities and commitments,
  • Sharing responsibilities with family members for meal preparation and group gift purchases,
  • Setting financial limits on purchases,
  • Getting adequate rest,
  • Exercising regularly, and
  • Eating regularly and making nutritional food selections.

Some other options may include:

  • Attending counseling sessions or support groups to deal with losses and grief, or
  • Increasing daytime activities to maximize exposure to light, especially since it gets dark much earlier this time of the year, which can also contribute to depression.

In more severe cases, your health care professional may recommend antidepressant medications.

If you need assistance finding a health care or mental (behavioral) health provider, the Compass Rose Health Plan can help you locate nearby support within the UnitedHealthcare network. In addition, you may also search for a specialist—no referral necessary. To search for a provider online, please visit or you may call UMR at (888) 438-9135.

Compass Rose Benefits Group wishes you and your family a very healthy, happy and safe holiday season!


  1. Stoppler Conrad, M. M., & Shiel Jr., W. C. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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