Feeling a Little Blue?

How to handle seasonal sadness or feelings of loneliness during holidays

The song proclaims it's "the most wonderful time of the year," but the stretch of time from Turkey Day through New Years can be difficult for some people — especially for someone who has lost a loved one in recent years.

"The holidays can be a trigger for losses," says Merlin Muhrer, licensed family therapist at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. "As you get older, you have to make an adjustment for those losses. If you try to fight the natural processing of loss and don't go through it, then it becomes more problematic." Wishing those feelings weren't there won't make them go away.

The holidays are a time of giving. Embracing that spirit of generosity may help manage feelings of sadness or loss. If you focus on filling the needs of someone who has far less, it can help put your own life into perspective.

Look for opportunities to volunteer your time and talents. "When you're giving something back or giving something to somebody, that can make you feel connected to your community," Muhrer says.

Science tells us that giving back is associated with health benefits that include lower mortality rate, decreased feelings of stress, and reduced risk of depression.

Along with its health benefits, volunteering also offers an opportunity to meet like-minded people. Possibilities abound at this time of year. Help prepare or deliver meals for the homebound, collect toys for needy children, provide a ride for someone who can't drive, or send a care package to a soldier overseas.

Don't isolate yourself

It may be tempting to hunker down at home when feeling out of sorts, but being alone too often can make you feel worse. Over time, isolation can lead to physical health problems as well.

Call a relative or coworker you haven't spoken to in a while. Try technology like Skype or FaceTime to enjoy a video chat.

Schedule time for physical activity, too. Take a walk or do simple chair exercises. Being active lowers stress and boosts positive feelings.

If sad feelings persist

Admit to yourself how you're feeling, Muhrer says. "But then ask yourself, ‘What is the spirit of the holidays, and how can I actively contribute to that?'"

If you find that your mood is affecting your routine — sleeping a lot or hardly at all, losing your appetite, or lacking energy, for example — you may want to confide in your primary care physician, Muhrer says. Depression is a health condition that can be treated. Your doctor may refer you to a counselor or therapist for talk therapy.