Got the festive season blues?

Got the festive season blues?

The festive season and end-of-year celebrations are supposed to be the most joyous time of the year: fancy dresses, gourmet foods, decorations, lights, parties, music, gifts and an opportunity to spend time with family and friends.

Joy, however, is not always the reality for everyone...

Reasons you may have festive blues

Many people feel particularly sad or down at this time of year. Reasons for this may include:

Excessive self-reflection

December is usually the time to look back on the year and what you have been through. Ongoing relationship problems with a partner, parents, siblings or children may seem more intense (and hopeless) during the holidays.

Perhaps you find yourself wondering:

  • "Am I good enough?"
  • "Why do we have to argue even on these days?"
  • "Why are others happier than me?"

Comparing your (apparent) inadequacies in life to those who seem to have more and do more can become a vicious circle.

Dissatisfaction with your personal life

Holidays mean that you have more time to think and this can force you to face personal issues you’ve been avoiding by working, going out too much or keeping yourself distracted.

Or perhaps you are single and ready for a relationship, struggling to get over your ex, in an unsatisfactory relationship, or the kids are celebrating with your ex-partner and you find yourself wondering why things haven’t worked out for you.

It is easy to begin an internal dialogue:

Unrealistic expectations

We all have visions of how the festive season "should" be, and excessive commercialisation can exacerbate this. We watch Hollywood movies that present the perfect picture: the heavily laden Christmas table, the successful romantic relationships and the ideal family life.

These kinds of expectations can intensify feelings of inadequacy or lack of control over relationship issues. They can also lead to feeling disappointed or unfulfilled when events turn out to be less than what we expected.

Grief & Loss

Loved ones or pets who have passed away, or relationships that have ended, are often remembered at this time of year and the burden can feel heavier than usual. It can feel even more painful to accept a reality without the person you deeply love(d).

Distance from loved ones

If you’re an expat, you may not have the chance to spend the holidays with your loved ones. And if you are able to visit family and friends, you know you will have to say goodbye again.

How to create happier holidays

So what can you do about the festive blues? Here are some tips to support you through the festive season.

Temper your expectations

Don’t get caught up in the madness of the "perfect" holiday with your "perfect" self around "perfect" people. Remember that authenticity is far more important than perfectionism.

Invite others

Gather a small group of expats in a similar situation to celebrate with you. Often, they will understand how you are feeling.

Be kind to yourself

Before accepting or committing to an event or task, ask yourself:

  • "Am I being kind to myself?"
  • "Am I pushing myself too hard to please others or to prove something?"

Choose carefully

Focus on two or three elements about this time of year that matter most to you... even the smallest things can make a difference.

Focus on happier times

When you find yourself missing someone, try to think of the good memories you shared with this person. Don't try and push the sad feelings from your mind - this will only lead to emotions getting bottled up!

Be thankful

Take a moment to be grateful for what you have, rather than focusing on what you don't have.

Be active

Take action and do things that you enjoy or that calm you (e.g. watch a movie, listen to music or take a long hot bath).

Break with tradition

If you have recently divorced or gone through a breakup, remember that you don’t have to follow the same traditions this year. Do something else!

Write your story

This will help you express your thoughts and feelings, process them and gain more insight.

Talk to someone

If you feel overwhelmed by your feelings, don’t feel shy about seeking professional help from a psychologist. If you can let go of the problem and put it in the past, you will be able to start afresh.

Enjoy the festive season

We wish you a special festive season, no matter how you celebrate it or where you are in the world!

How do you feel this festive season? And what tips work well for you? Share them in the comments below!

Vivian  Chiona


Vivian Chiona

Vivian Chiona is the founder and director of Expat Nest (, which provides emotional support to expats and their families through online counseling services. A bicultural, multilingual expat with family...

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