December 14, 2021

Helping Students Navigate the Holiday Blues

Michael E. Creekmore, Jr. LPC, CPCS
Michael Creekmore Headshot with the words, "Helping Students Navigate the Holiday Blues"

There’s this time that happens every single year. It usually occurs or starts bubbling under the surface, midway through October. We start looking forward to the treats of Halloween, the costumes, the candy, the scary movies, the pumpkin-pumpkin-pumpkin-on-pumpkin everything. Since there is so much attention given to Halloween, we often miss the signs and we don’t really pay attention to some of the feelings we’re experiencing. Then, Halloween is over! The costumes are off the shelves, the candy is all gone, the scary movie reruns are over, and now it’s all about turkey and the Super Bowl of feasting. 

But for others, deep sorrow is starting to take hold. It looks a lot like grief, despair, and depression. It’s a longing for relatives who are no longer with us and a deep desire for those nostalgic holiday times that are no more. Retreating to our phone or television results in Hallmark movies, the well-crafted holiday commercials, and even conversations centered around the holidays. It all seems to contribute to a depressed state of being. After struggling to adjust to Daylight Saving Time, it’s suddenly Christmas. All of this coincides with COVID-19 and the devastating loss some have experienced since the start of the pandemic. The holiday blues are real. 

Whether you’re noticing some changing emotions in students now, or want to help students prepare for an extended break from school where family dynamics may be difficult, here are a few “Holiday Blues Survival Tips” that could help your students cope with their uncomfortable feelings:

Get Active

Exercising regularly has been scientifically proven to combat or decrease the likelihood of anxiety and depression. When we exercise, the body releases endorphins (chemicals) that make our bodies feel energetic and serve as a natural mood boost. Here is a list of endorphin-boosting activities:

  • Walking, hiking, jogging, running 
  • Jump rope, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, jump squats
  • Kickboxing, burpees, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts
  • Step aerobics, yoga, Pilates, and dancing
A slide that reads "What animal is the most intelligent?" With the options of Dog, Parrot, Chimpanzee, or Dolphin
Try Pear Deck Templates for Teaching with Movement to help students get active

Feel Your Feelings

Your feelings are your feelings, and they are valid. If something is bothering you and speaking up isn’t your forte, get a journal and write. Don’t allow the weight of this time to bring you down by holding in your feelings. Suffering is hard, but suffering in silence can be torture. 

There is power in naming your feelings, especially when your feelings are uncomfortable. Acknowledging your feelings is actually a way of initially dealing with them. Feelings such as grief, sadness, and anxiety won’t fade away or magically disappear if you pretend like everything's okay. Sometimes it is necessary to talk to a licensed therapist. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of scrutiny and stigma around mental health. But for many, meeting with a licensed therapist is the only time some people have been able to tell their story without judgement. For these people, just being able to tell their story, grapple with hard truths, and gain insight is all that is needed in order to move in a new and positive direction.

A slide that reads, "How are you feeling?" With four different facial expression options ranging from happy to sad.
Try Pear Deck Templates for School Counseling: Feelings to help students understand feelings.

Protect Your Peace

Reduce social media consumption. While this will undoubtedly be the least-favorite way to protect your peace, it’s often necessary. Social media affects us all, in many different ways. Some of us find ourselves in comparison traps, while others watch videos that cause secondary trauma due to the “trauma dumping” of others — this is the sharing of trauma at an inappropriate time with someone who may not be equipped to process it.  

Avoid toxic people and toxic situations. Sometimes our “friends” bring toxic vibes unknowingly. When you feel your mood changing from positive to negative, there’s usually a situation, incident, or person that serves as a catalyst for that abrupt change.

Start a New Tradition

If your recent memories of holidays are less than pleasant, or old traditions have opened new wounds, determine what ideal holidays and traditions look like, and change them. Of course, you will want to do this with the help of your family. It’s quite possible they may be feeling the same way, but haven’t expressed or been as courageous as you, to start anew. 

A slide that reads, "How can you help others in your community?"
Try our new Pear Deck Templates for Sharing Acts of Kindness to help students create a new seasonal tradition.

Be Thankful

People naturally try to think about how to fix the bad. Focus on the good in your life, whatever it may be. Breathe and embrace all that is right. Begin a gratitude journal or appreciation vlog. Each morning, write or record about all of the good you are grateful for in your life. Take the time to acknowledge what is going well, and embrace the good.

A slide with an empty jar with an arrow pointing to it. It reads, "Write down all of the things you are grateful for in the jar."
Try Pear Deck Templates for Practicing Gratitude to help students reflect on things or people they’re thankful for.

Oftentimes we do ourselves a greater disservice by trying to overcome obstacles instead of trying to work through issues. It’s important to remember that acceptance of where we are and how we’re feeling is not a sign of weakness. Hopefully these tips help provide your students with insights to better navigate their emotions this time of year.