More than Just the Holiday Blues: Winter Depression, Stress & SAD


Holidays are known for being a joyful time of celebration and winter cheer. But for some, this isn’t the case. If you’re feeling extra stressed or sad during the holidays, you aren’t the only one. In fact, late fall and winter have some of the highest rates of depression—thanks to stress, loneliness and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).


What is SAD?

While feeling down due to shorter days and less daylight in the fall and winter can be common, Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs in cases where “…these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks and handles daily activities,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. 

SAD is considered to be a type of depression characterized by a recurring seasonal pattern, with depression symptoms lasting four to five months out of the year. People with major depression disorder, bipolar disorder type I and bipolar disorder type II are more likely to experience SAD.

Most of the symptoms of SAD are the same symptoms that occur in major depression, including:

  • Feeling depressed most days
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies you once enjoyed
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Low energy levels or fatigue
  • Sleep issues
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling worthless
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors


Additional seasonal specific symptoms of SAD include:

  • Oversleeping (a.k.a. hypersomnia)
  • An increased craving for carbohydrates
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Social withdrawal


For more information about SAD, as well as tips for treating SAD, click here.



What causes the “Holiday Blues”?

Other causes of the “holiday blues” a.k.a. increased stress and/or sadness during the holidays may include:

  • Increased financial stress
  • Family trauma
  • Social isolation
  • Grief
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Not being able to be with loved ones (family or friends) over the holidays
  • Over-commercialization of the holidays


Coping with the “Holiday Blues”

Check out this infographic from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is full of great tips for combating the holiday blues.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or in need of some extra support this holiday season, consider therapy. Valera Health offers convenient telemental health services including therapy and psychiatry services. Visit or click here to learn more and schedule your free initial consultation with a designated Health Connector.