Black Joy

Don’t be Black & Blue: advice for Black folks battling the Holiday Blues

It’s that time of the year again, where I dust off my light therapy lamp, and welcome the darkness outside my window sooner than usual. For some of us, the holidays bring the grief and loneliness of losses from years past. And this can hit even harder for Black folks.

From a pandemic that impacted us at an alarming rate to witnessing yet another Black life stolen by police, the last few years have been rough. One of the most insidious consequences of systemic racism is the psychological distress it can cause. While Depression is among the most prevalent disorders in the United States, it can significantly impact Black Americans due to lack of access to quality mental health care. Not to mention, we are underrepresented in mental health research.

Thankfully, there are Black mental health practitioners working to close those gaps. At Spalding University, the Collective Care Clinic is one of the few clinics in the United States that specialize in race-based stress and trauma. Dr. Steven Kniffley, a clinical psychologist and the director of the Collective Care Clinic, centers the well-being of Black folks in his practice. In discussing the ways, the holidays can affect us, he says race-related stress can exacerbate the isolation and loneliness that may come up for us around the holidays.

Due to the mental health stigma that permeates Black communities, it’s vital that we gain tools to support, not only ourselves, but each other. Kniffley recommends a couple ways to do this:

“First, recognize the warning signs for potential mental health challenges and ask thoughtful and supportive questions. Second, know [the] resources to connect individuals to [mental health] support. Lastly, follow up and check in on folks and move past the ‘How are you, I’m fine’ dynamic by asking questions such as ‘is there something you need help with at this moment’ or ‘is there someone I can connect you with?’”

In other words, the folks in your community need thoughtful and actionable support. That starts by taking the time to listen and allowing them to be transparent about what they need without judgment.

Iresha Picot, known on instagram as Da Hood Therapist, is also making sure Black folks have access to mental health care, in her words, “whether they’re in the hood, on the porch, in the church, or in the mosque.” A licensed Behavioral Specialist and therapist, Picot has observed a trend among folks who seek treatment around the holidays.

“Because of the isolation the holidays bring about. I think people start to realize they probably need to see a therapist. Because what happens in isolation, as we found out with the pandemic, if you sit still long enough, all those little doors you thought were shut and locked [start to] swing open. Then you’re like, ‘Ooh I haven’t thought about this since I was 12.’ It all comes to the surface.”

As noted by Picot, a part of isolation is not having the distraction of work and the other activities that keep us busy. Our troubles are amplified when we have nothing to do but sit with our thoughts. However, there are strategies we can incorporate to get us through the next few months, especially when it’s colder, darker and more difficult to enjoy the same things we do during the warmer times of the year.

“[What] made you happy at different points in the year. . .write them down often, so that way it becomes a consistent thing. If you like going to brunch with your friends, maybe you can make that a habit you can do twice a month or once a month. But also be able to move those things that you do in the summertime, and try to alter them for the winter. . . I like to ride a bike in the summertime and the spring. But it’s cold in Philly in the wintertime. So instead of riding bikes, I go and do a spin class,” Picot says.

She also mentions the importance of honoring the natural shifts that may occur in our life. Just because something brought you joy in May doesn’t mean that it will in December. It’s good to be open to seeking out new hobbies and interests that may be effective in supporting you during the holiday season. The first step, according to Picot, is putting pleasure and rest at the center of our lives.

Getting through the Holiday Blues isn’t a journey you have to go on alone. Lean on your loved ones or find culturally competent mental health providers, like Picot and Kniffley. Additionally, if you’re like me, and struggle this time of year with the shorter days and longer nights, invest in a Happy Light which research has shown alleviates seasonal depression symptoms.

Remember, you deserve joy (and rest) no matter the season. To learn more about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and how to manage it, visit

Danielle Buckingham

Danielle Buckingham

Danielle Buckingham (she/her), affectionately known as Dani Bee, is Reckon’s Black Joy Reporter, and a Chicago-born, Mississippi-raised writer based in Oxford, Mississippi. A 2021 Lambda Literary fellow, her work has been published in MadameNoire, Midnight & Indigo Literary Magazine, Raising Mothers, and elsewhere.

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