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The Holiday Blues

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For many, the holiday season is a joyful time of the year, filled with celebrations, and social gatherings with family and friends. Unfortunately for others, this season can also be filled with sadness, loneliness, and anxiety. If you, or someone you know is struggling emotionally, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. 

The Holiday Blues

The holidays can overwhelm. Social commitments, financial pressures, tension among family members, and routine-disrupting events can lead us feeling exhausted. Those who are struggling with grief or without social connections often to choose to isolate and can feel resentful of the season. Furthermore, people often feel pressured to create a perfect story-book experience for their families.

An important factor to avoid the holiday blues is to take control over what you would like your holiday to be. Choose to forgo traditions that may be overwhelming and become comfortable with deciding what you can realistically make, give, buy, and handle. Allow yourself to decide which events to attend and be unapologetic about building in time for self-care activities that help you to reduce stress. 

Layering Stressors

The holidays can also be a time when some of our most stressful experiences seem to be amplified. If you have experienced any traumatic events in the last several months, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of housing, major illness, or job loss—you may be at greater risk for mental health conditions. Depression, anxiety and substance use disorder are some of the more common mental health issues resulting from trauma and recognizing the signs and symptoms early can make all the difference in lessening the symptoms and promoting early recovery. The pandemic, while becoming a more normal part of life, also had a major effect on our collective and individual wellbeing. Its repercussions are still playing out, especially during the holidays.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

This time of year, some people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It affects approximately 5 percent of people, and it goes beyond the holiday blues. In fact, SAD is characterized as “major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern.” Symptoms of depression, regardless of when it occurs, include feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness; angry outbursts or irritability; loss of interest in things that typically bring joy; disrupted sleep and many more.


If symptoms of depression remain, even after the days brighten and warm up, you could be struggling with depression. Depression affects nearly 20 percent of people over the course of a lifetime and symptoms can vary from person to person.

What to Do

If you feel you might have SAD or depression, you should speak with a counselor for proven treatments that can help. Locally, you can call 802-442-5491 or talk to your primary care provider.

If a friend, family member, or acquaintance has begun showing signs of withdrawal, including decreasing interactions with others, discontinuing their favorite activities, or increasing their use of alcohol or other drugs, it’s important to reach out and ask them about how they are doing. You don’t need to be a physician or mental health counselor to make a difference. Letting them know you are concerned and willing to help, as well as providing resources is often the first step to reaching mental wellness.

United Counseling Service (UCS) is a private, non-profit community mental health center that has been an essential part of Bennington County’s integrated healthcare system since 1958. The organization has been designated as a Center of Excellence by Vermont Care Partners. UCS promotes healthy lifestyles through all its programs and offers care at 15 different facilities, including two primary outpatient facilities in Bennington and Manchester. UCS provides outpatient counseling and addiction services, emergency mental health services, extensive rehabilitation services, home and school-based services, employment services for people recovering from mental illness or with developmental disabilities, and early childhood services.  For more information visit www.ucsvt.org.

Katie Aiken is a Blueprint Spoke Clinician with United Counseling Service 

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