HOLIDAY DEPRESSION AND
Although the holidays are supposed
to be a time full of joy, good cheer, and optimistic hopes for a new year, many
people experience seasonal "blues." The holiday season is a time full
of parties and family gatherings, but for many people it is also a time of
self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past "failures," and
anxiety about an uncertain future.
The "holiday blues" can be
caused by many factors: increased stress and fatigue, unrealistic expectations,
over commercialization, and the inability to be with one's family. The
increased demands of shopping, parties, family reunions, and house guests also
contribute to these feelings of tension. Even people who do not become
depressed can develop other stress reactions during the holidays such as headaches,
excessive drinking, overeating, and difficulty sleeping.
Although many people become
depressed during the holiday season, even more respond to the excessive stress
and anxiety once the holidays have passed. This post holiday letdown after
January 1st can be the result of emotional disappointments experienced during
the preceding months, as well as the physical reactions caused by excess
fatigue and stress.
Here are several ways to identify
potential sources of holiday depression that can help individuals cope with the
. Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable
by not trying to make the holiday "the best ever."
Try to set realistic goals for
yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the
most important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Do
not spend too much time preparing for just one day (Christmas).
. Remember that the holiday season does not
automatically banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these
feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
. Let go of the past! Don't be disappointed if your
holidays are not like they used to be. Life brings changes. Each holiday season
is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. You set yourself up for sadness
if everything has to be just like the "good old days." Look toward
. Do something for someone else. It is an old remedy,
but it can help. Try volunteering some time to help others.
. Enjoy holiday activities that are free such as
driving around to look at Christmas decorations. Go window shopping without
. Don't drink too much. Excessive drinking will only
make you more depressed.
. Don't be afraid to try something new. Celebrate the
holidays in a way you have not done before.
. Spend time with people who are supportive and care
about you. Make new friends if you are alone during special times. Contact
someone you have lost touch with.
. Find time for yourself. Don't spend all your time
providing activities for your family and friends.
Recent studies have shown that
there are also environmental factors which can contribute to feelings of
depression around the holidays. Some people suffer from seasonal affective
disorder (SAD), which can result from fewer hours of sunlight as the days grow
shorter during the winter months. This disorder usually begins in early
adulthood, and four times as many women as men are effected. Researchers have
found, however, that phototherapy, a treatment involving a few hours of
exposure to intense light, is effective in relieving depressive symptoms in
patients with SAD. Patients generally respond to bright light therapy (12 times
brighter than ordinary room light) within four days.
Again, it's important to remember
everyone feels sad on occasion; but, if those feelings last two weeks or longer
and interfere with daily living activities, you should not suffer needlessly;
that is, seek help from a qualified and experienced therapist to regain control
of your life.