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Embracing Wellness Amidst The Winter Solstice: A Guide To Managing Holiday Stress

Sacramento, California – December 19, 2023— As the holiday season approaches, the imagery of joy, celebration, and togetherness comes to mind. However, the reality for many individuals is that holidays can bring stress and anxiety. The pressures of gift-giving to the hectic nature of holiday preparations, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. In fact, nearly nine out of ten (89%) of U.S. adults say something causes them stress during the holiday season, whether that’s financial strain, rocky relationships, exhaustion, or unmet expectations ( Amidst these widely discussed stressors, one factor that may not receive as much attention during the holidays is the impact of the winter solstice on mental health. 

As the winter solstice approaches on Thursday, December 21st, the sun travels the shortest path through the sky, resulting in the day of the year with the least sunlight and consequently, the longest night. There are minimal daylight hours around this time of year and some individuals may experience feelings of melancholy and sadness, primarily due to a drop in serotonin levels. This explains why the term ‘winter blues’ is commonly used to describe feelings of low energy and fatigue. The winter solstice also affects the body’s circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep-wake cycles, hormonal release, and other physiological processes. Disruptions to the circadian rhythm can contribute to sleep disturbances, fatigue, and changes in mood. This combination of reduced sunlight, changes in serotonin levels, and disruptions to the circadian rhythm during the winter months can contribute to increased stress and anxiety. 

Considering the potential impact of the winter solstice on mental health and the opportunities it presents for proactive well-being and mindfulness, we recognize that this celestial event holds particular significance for Indigenous communities. The winter solstice is more than a cosmic occurrence; Indigenous people view it as an opportunity to reconnect with the natural world, improve understanding, and access the deep wisdom that has been observed and celebrated by previous generations for ages. For Indigenous communities worldwide, the natural world serves as a profound teacher of natural and universal principles. All of the interwoven elements within our solar system have an undeniable impact on life, fostering a deep and inseparable connection. “The winter solstice has many different meanings among Indigenous California. This is the event that starts winter for us here in Northern California. We light a fire all night because the fire represents the return of the sun and hope going into the new year. This is a time for letting go, going inward to stay warm, and a time for stories to be shared – stories of creation and family history,” said Healing Ways Herbalist Apprentice Kaijah Robertson (Nisenan, Maidu, Southern Paiute, Chemehuevi Indian Tribe). Although from the outside it’s a period of darkness, from within the winter solstice can be uplifting and provide a chance for introspection with profound intention. It offers an opportunity to nurture our spiritual well-being, attend to our bodies and minds, care for our loved ones and families, and prepare ourselves for the lengthening days that lie ahead. 

There are several preventative and supportive methods that individuals can explore to alleviate the symptoms associated with the ‘winter blues’ during the holidays. Some Indigenous practices include showing appreciation to the people you care about, channeling your inner creative energy through arts, crafts, and exercising your imagination, drinking natural or medicinal teas, lighting fire, making an offering, or setting intentions for the longer days ahead. Alternative methods include increasing sunlight exposure by opening curtains and blinds to let more natural light into indoor spaces and maximizing time spent outdoors in the sun for an additional boost. Engaging in regular physical activity not only contributes to the body’s serotonin levels but also helps alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Establish and maintain a consistent sleep schedule to support a healthy circadian rhythm. Consume a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, which have been associated with mood regulation. Practice mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to reduce stress and promote relaxation. These techniques can help manage anxiety and improve overall mental well-being. Lastly, if symptoms persist or worsen, seek professional help. Mental health professionals, such as psychologists or psychiatrists, can provide counseling or recommend appropriate interventions, including medication if necessary. Here are some recommendations from SNAHC’s Behavioral Health Clinical Director Dr. Tracie Hall, “Make sure you are getting enough sleep, create your own traditions, create a daily exercise routine which could be as simple as taking a walk around the block, stretching, or following along with something on YouTube. Spend time with people who love and support you. Some people also like to volunteer and help or give to others to boost their spirits. Make sure you’re doing at least one thing for yourself daily.” It’s essential to recognize that individuals may respond differently to various strategies, so it may take some experimentation to find what works best. 

While not everyone experiences significant mood changes during the winter months, individual responses to seasonal changes can vary. If someone is experiencing persistent symptoms of depression or anxiety, especially during the winter season, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and appropriate support. 

 This holiday season, prioritize your well-being by incorporating natural and holistic strategies to manage stress. From regular exercise and a healthy sleep schedule to mindful practices and a nutritious diet, there are numerous tools at your disposal. By embracing a holistic approach, you can create a foundation for a stress-free and meaningful holiday season. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and anxiety, please call and ask for our Behavioral Health Department at (916) 341-7585. SNAHC is wishing peace and wellness to everyone this holiday season. 


Sacramento Native American Health Center is a non-profit 501(c)(3) Federally Qualified Health Center committed to continue and share the legacy of a healthy American Indian / Alaska Native community based on cultural values delivered through a traditional, innovative, and accessible patient-centered health home. SNAHC offers primary care, oral health, behavioral health, specialty, and supportive services. We are open to all, and all are welcome. For more information on SNAHC, visit or call 916-341-0575 for an appointment.    

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Jeanine Gaines



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