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COOK COUNTY CONNECTIONS: Mental Health During the Holiday Season

Nov 26, 2021 08:42AM ● By Editor
Photo: Vista del Mar Hospital

By Sara Hadley, Cook County Public Health & Human Services from Cook County MN - November 26, 2021

Many people can experience feelings of anxiety or depression during the holiday season. A survey conducted by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, found that 64% of respondents stated that they were affected by “holiday blues.” 

The holiday blues are temporary feelings of anxiety and depression during the holidays that can be associated with extra stress, unrealistic expectations, or even memories. Some of the signs of holiday blues may include fatigue, tension, frustration, loneliness, sadness, or a sense of loss. People who already live with a mental health condition should take extra care to tend to their overall health and wellness during this time

The difference between the holiday blues and clinical anxiety and depression is that the feelings are temporary; however, short-term problems should be taken seriously because they can lead to long-term mental health concerns.  

A lot of seasonal factors can trigger the holiday blues such as lack of sleep, less sunlight, changes in your diet or routine, alcohol at parties, over-commercialization, financial stress, unrealistic expectations, loneliness, or the inability to be with friends or family. These are all factors that can seriously affect your mood.

In addition to talking to your doctor or a mental health professional about holiday blues, there are many other things that you can do to help avoid or beat the holiday blues:

  • Stick to normal routines as much as possible
  • Set boundaries: say no if you need to (and don’t feel bad about it)
  • Get enough sleep
  • Take time for yourself, but don’t isolate yourself
  • Eat and drink in moderation—do not drink alcohol if you are feeling down
  • Exercise
  • Set reasonable expectations for holiday activities
  • Set a budget for holiday expenses
  • Practice mindfulness- don’t slack on self-care
  • If you are in recovery, recognize triggers and have a plan
  • Seek professional help if you need it

If your friend or family member is struggling, try listening empathetically. You don’t have to understand how someone is feeling to have respect for it. Be careful of accidentally shaming or minimizing the other person’s experience. Instead, make a point to express feelings of hope. You can also offer to serve as a distraction. Invite them to go for a winter hike or to have coffee with you. You can also encourage and even assist them in meeting with a mental health professional. 

Remember the holidays are not an easy time of year for many, so be gentle with yourself. If you find your symptoms aren’t getting better or you are struggling to function as you normally do, it’s time to reach out. Please remember that you are not alone.  

Local Mental Health Supports:
Cook County Public Health and Human Services: 218-387-3620
Cook County Afterhours Crisis Line: 218-623-1800 or 1-844-772-4724
Grand Portage Human Services: 218-475-2453
Sawtooth Mountain Clinic: 218-387-2330
Violence Prevention Center: 218-387-1262

National and Statewide Crisis Lines:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.
State Crisis Text Line: Text “MN” to 741741.
The Trevor Project LGBTQ Crisis Line: 1-866-488-7386
Veteran's Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1), or send a text to 838255

Mental Health Warmlines and Helplines:
Minnesota Warm Line Peer Support Connection (5 p.m. - 9 a.m.): 844-739-6369
The NAMI Helpline (9 a.m.–7 p.m.): 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
National Parent Helpline: 855-427-2736, operated by Parents Anonymous.
Minnesota Farm and Rural Helpline: 833-600-2670


Adapted from: 

Tips for Managing the Holiday Blues (NAMI 2015)

Surviving Painful Holiday Emotions (NAMI 2020)

Stress, Depression, and the Holidays: Tips for Coping (Mayo Clinic 2020)

Why We Really Get Depressed During the Holidays (HealthPartners 2020)


Learn more about the PHHS department and resources to support your mental health and wellbeing online at or follow us on Facebook @CookCountyPHHS or in Instagram  @cook_county_phhs.


County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service