How to Handle Depression Around the Holidays How to Handle Depression Around the Holidays

While many people consider the holidays a joyful time full of parties and socializing, there are many others who find the holiday season to be full of loneliness, sadness, and anxiety. These individuals may feel isolated from others. They may reflect on their past mistakes and failures or feel that the future is uncertain. These people are suffering from the holiday blues.

If you find that you feel depressed, sad, or angry, or that you have trouble sleeping, experience crying jags, or you are thinking of death or suicide, you may be suffering from holiday depression. There is also a kind of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that begins in the fall and peaks in the winter. SAD is a sensitivity to the darker days of winter; it causes a hormonal reaction that brings on depression. Still, it may be lumped together with holiday-related depression.

There are many factors that add up to “the holiday blues.” They can be brought on by the stress of shopping, continual guests, financial strain, and one’s own unrealistic expectations. They can also be cause by not being able to visit with family or friends. And some people have holiday blues after the holidays—in January, when everything is over, like a post-party letdown.

Whatever the cause, depression is a serious disorder and should be met with the utmost concern. A visit to your doctor is in order if you believe yourself to be depressed. Holiday depression, experts say, differs slightly from major depression because it can be offset or even avoided. All it takes is first recognizing the problem, then taking a few steps to adjust your expectations. If you find yourself showing signs of depression, or if you have been seasonally depressed in the past, try these tips:

  • Set realistic goals. The season is supposed to be about joy. Try to list the activities that are most important to you, and do those; consider skipping the rest.
  • Allow the feelings to exist. Experience them, but also recognize that there are things you cannot change—if you haven’t gotten along with your sister for thirty years, you probably won’t this year either.
  • If finances are an issue, make a list of free activities. Drive out to see decorations; visit religious or community tree lightings; play in the snow.
  • Learn to relax. If you don’t know how, consider taking up mediation, practice yoga, or get a weekly massage. A few minutes a day of simple rest and deep breathing will work wonders.
  • Eat well. Excessive food and alcohol only add to the “bad” feelings—plus, alcohol is a depressant that will only make you feel more down in the dumps.

Above all, it’s important to keep your perspective. The holiday is just a day—you don’t have to bake cookies like Grandma did or give the most gifts in order to enjoy it. Getting exercise is a great way to release your mental stress. Be sure to ask for help if you need it—and in no time at all, spring will be on its way.

For more information:
Is it Depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder?
National Women’s Health Information
National Institute of Mental Health
National Foundation for Depressive Illnesses

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