Four simple steps to beating the holiday blues

Story highlights

  • With an emphasis on family and celebration, some people can feel down
  • Hiding out doesn't help; force yourself to mix and mingle with a small group of friends
  • Avoid Facebook, hit the gym, volunteer and remember you are in charge of you

Samantha Gattsek's family has never made a big deal out of holiday celebrations. But this year, she feels especially disconnected from the seasonal cheer surrounding her.

"The holidays can feel like a lonely time of year, and it's hard to hear about everyone else's fun plans," the 29-year-old Manhattanite says. "I don't have that warm and fuzzy feeling."
    Gattsek can't afford the $700 plane ticket to visit her boyfriend in Atlanta. Plus, she has to work on Christmas Eve. With nothing much to look forward to, she's suffered from low energy since Thanksgiving and has a bad case of the holiday blues.

    Why it's easy to hate the holidays

    The holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year, yet for many, they trigger deep feelings of sadness and anxiety.
    "There's so much emphasis on family and celebration, but it's hard if you're dealing with difficult memories or reminders that you're not close to your family," says Sharon Melnick, author of "Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident and Productive When the Pressure's On."
    "It can feel like there's a big gap between what other people are experiencing and what you're experiencing."
    Add the financial pressure of gift-giving, cold weather and lack of sunlight, and those are prime conditions for a world-class funk. But unlike seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is estimated to affect up to 20% of Americans, it's unknown how many people suffer from the holiday blahs.
    "It's important not to classify all winter doldrums as SAD," explains Sarah Eckfeldt, a psychotherapist in New York City. "Many people experience a drop in mood in anticipation of the holidays because they might be sad over a recent breakup or spending the first holiday after the death of a loved one and could benefit from talking to a therapist."
    The good news: Seasonal doldrums tend to fade