In the whirlwind of holiday festivities, the weight of unmet expectations can cast a shadow on our experiences and relationships. It’s undeniable that these expectations significantly contribute to the holiday blues. Have you ever found yourself unconsciously crafting expectations, whether of others or yourself? Read more for ways to release those unmet expectations so that you enjoy the holiday season more.

Dear Dr. B,

I saw your Facebook post about depression and knew I had to write. It’s getting close to that time of the year when things are supposed to be “merry and bright” and yet, I feel anything but. I find the holidays stressful, and frequently become depressed before the new year has arrived. I’d really like for this year to be different. Do you have any advice?

Feeling Down This Holiday


Dear One,
I’m afraid I’m well acquainted with the exact feelings you describe. Not everyone experiences holiday cheer during this time of year, and I have had years that were not so festive within my heart either.

Carrying our unmet expectations into the holidays

For many, a big part of what contributes to the holiday blues, are unmet expectations.

Whether we give voice to them or not, we all have unspoken expectations for how we think things will go, what will happen, and how we will be affected. We carry our expectations into the holidays—how we perceive things should be. Yet others may not share our same perspective or expectations of what the holidays should be like, how events will transpire, or what their role will be. They cannot see our mental picture that depicts those expectations, or the role that we anticipate they will play in our imagined scenario.

For example, we may not even realize it, but we rehearse in our heads what the meals will taste like, and what will be said when company visits. We imagine how conversations will flow, and how others will react when we give them the “perfect gift.”

Releasing perfect expectations of ourselves

We also often have perfect expectations of ourselves: finding the perfect gift for each person on our list, sending out the perfect Christmas card or family photo, making the perfect meal, or having the house white-glove clean for company. Our perfect expectations are the perfect recipe for frustration and failure.

We often cannot control what happens to us, nor can we control others’ responses. When our expectations do not come to pass, we may feel disappointed, frustrated, angry, or depressed.

One way to combat depression during the holidays is to release our expectations; Release our expectations of others and ourselves.

I once saw a Christmas card photo of a family’s three toddler-age children, each holding one letter to spell out the word “Joy.” But instead of a perfect smiling family, all three children were crying. That parent knew how to release expectations for the perfect Christmas card. And truthfully, I probably enjoyed it more than the perfect scenario, because I got a good chuckle from it.

Releasing expectations of others

By releasing our expectations of others and ourselves, we can more easily take things as they come, and enjoy the experience rather than wishing a different outcome. It shifts our perspective from the negative (focusing on what didn’t happen the way we wanted or expected) to the positive (focusing on the positive of what occurred).

The Bible cautions, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NLT).

Will you release some expectations this holiday season and enjoy more?



Depression Resources

Depression resources: Hope Prevails and Hope Prevails Bible Study

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For a Free eBook: How to Help a Depressed Loved One

For more helpful information about what you need to know when you have a depressed loved one, read here: 10 things to know if you have a depressed loved one.

Tips: what not to say to a depressed loved one and suggestions about supportive things you can say to a depressed loved one.


Feeling down this holiday season? Unmet expectations play a big part in contributing to the holiday blues. Read more for ways to break free and release the weight of anticipated outcomes and shift your perspective to the positive. Learn ways to enjoy the holidays!