Holidays come with their own amount of stress. Some people thrive with all the planning and preparing but even they admittingly get overwhelmed at times. As you look around you will see tempers shorten, mood swings increasing, and depression going into full throttle. Some people/families experience chaos at every turn even to the point of being dysfunctional. Often self-imposed busyness and expectations are compounded by the financial burden of  – gift-giving, food for gatherings, and heating costs. These stresses can easily lead you to be overwhelmed. Unfortunately, when these things happen many people start to compare their lives with those of others of course with the glass half full attitude.

The increased stress of the Holidays is aggravated and magnified for those living farthest from the equator. Let us take a look at why.


People that do not normally struggle with depression or anger etc. can have more issues when the days are shorter. It is said about 10 million experience dramatic mood swings when the days become shorter! Many more have milder cases but can still experience disruptive life stories during the “darker “ months. Research has recently shown that aggression and anger attacks are linked and depression may intensify when days are shorter. Women are more likely to develop SAD but men may have more exaggerated symptoms. Those who had a tragic event or loss over the Holidays are especially vulnerable. especially if they continue to ruminate about the event.

SAD  sufferers can experience the same symptoms as those with panic and anxiety attacks.  We should also include anger attacks! They all possess many of the same symptoms. When you combine SAD with any existing mental torment hopelessness can amplify.  It can make you feel like you have backstepped. You are not alone. More than 300  million people experience symptoms of SAD in varying degrees. Many have not made the connection that their problems may be seasonally affected. Just realizing that SAD is real is the first step to victory over seasonal dysfunction. It is very treatable!

There are many excellent links that will increase your understanding of SAD and how the shorter days may be affecting you during the Holidays. I hope you take the time to visit a few of these excellent sites. There are a variety of articles offered. It is our hope that you will find a “nugget” just for you.

Research is ongoing. They are striving to learn how and why the shorter days bring about changes in our moods. Here are a few facts.

  • We know that UV light, melatonin levels and serotonin levels change in SAD. This can cause fatigue and decreased energy which can fuel depression.
  • Anger can be the outcome of depression. Most people do not know that  anger can be expressed inward… this can cause an overly critical negative inner voice as explained in the The Connection Between Depression and Anger: verywell mind


Depression Presenting as Anger: on line msw program

Researchers ultimately found that people with depression were more likely to experience anger and irritability if they lacked the ability to emotionally regulate and ruminated on negative events.

Rumination: repetitive, unwanted, past-oriented negatively inclined thoughts. Individuals who ruminate may mentally rehearse past stressful events and worry about future events.


Why we get depressed during the holidays by HealthPartners explains: research showing Anger Attacks in those with SAD can be significantly higher.  Those with SAD often respond with anger and irritability this is more noticeable in men.,


Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety during the months of November and December may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment.

Feeling disconnected and comparing yourself to others can isolate you. A loss especially over the holiday season affects many for years and years. If this is the case often a therapist can help you get past the hurt and remember with fondness your loved one, and celebrate in their honor.


A research paper about SAD:   studies that reveal participants living closer to the equator fare much better than those of us up north.   This article tells you there are questionnaires to help diagnose SAD.


Web MD discusses holiday depression and stress …you should now be aware that the reduced daylight factor may add to your holiday suffering making coping more difficult.  Unknowingly the closed-in feeling you are experiencing can often be SAD. It is more common than you may think. Those with SAD are affected to make them sleep and eat more. This alone can add to other issues you may be experiencing. Phototherapy of 30 min or more /day can be highly effective.   


The Mayo Clinic captured the essence of stress and depression over the Holidays in their article offering tips for coping.   

Tip # 3 Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children or other relatives can’t come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate.


Surviving painful Holiday Emotions  This article is helpful and can help you put things into perspective. It discusses a helpful resource.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel and her award-winning book might be just what you need.  It’s Not Always Depression:  Take a look inside  at Amazon


Remember there are tools to help diagnose SAD.

Light therapy can be highly effective

CBT, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, can help you if you ruminate about events or losses of the past.

Therapists are your friend!