‘Tis the season of… holiday depression?

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The Holiday season is, to some, the most wonderful time of the year. It’s all about families coming together, wrapping and unwrapping presents, having mulled wine and singing holiday tunes. However, there are people who dread approaching the end of December… Many of them are secretly fighting what mental health specialists call “holiday depression”. Here’s what happens to some of us during this time of the years and how to deal with it.

Holiday depression and possible causes

Feeling sad, lacking energy, having sleeping problems and experiencing a general discomfort when thinking about holidays might be signs of depression. If you suffer from a diagnosed form of depression, you might notice that around this time of the year the symptoms can get worse. Why are some people negatively affected by holidays?

1. Loneliness – not all of us have a family to turn to or friends to spend time with. Many people face loneliness and the feelings are made even more acute around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, especially when seeing others come together and have a good time.
2. Financial stress – we are encouraged to see this month as the month of giving and receiving presents. The joy of wrapping and unwrapping presents under the Christmas tree is, to some of people, a luxury that won’t happen. Having kids and not enough money is also a reason for parents to worry and feel bad about themselves, which can trigger depression.
3. Grief – losing someone is a wound that can open around this time of the year even if the event might have happened months or years before. It is the season when we want to connect with the ones we love and their absence might hurt more than usual.
4. Social pressure – we are told, on all media, that we must enjoy ourselves during the holidays. Commercials and stores encourage us to start buying presents as early as October. It looks like there is a “duty” to be merry around this time of the year, a pressure to fit in and to join the crowd hunting for presents, eating to excess and wearing funny clothes.
5. Medical reasons – some people have been fighting depression all year long and now the symptoms just get worse. Others might not have experienced any sad feelings, but suddenly they feel down in December. In both cases, a lack of vitamin D for those living in the Northern Hemisphere, a busy schedule, too many sleepless nights and an unhealthy diet can enhance depressive symptoms.

Look for help

It is important to keep in mind that in some cases depression gets so difficult to manage that can push people to suicide. Although it is a myth that more people commit suicide at this time of the year, there are cases when it becomes impossible to cope and some people see no way out of their depression trap. If you feel suicidal or know someone who is, you should look for support immediately. A phone call to 911, a visit to any hospital’s emergency room or a chat with someone from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK and press 1) can save a life.

For milder symptoms of depression, consider improvements to your lifestyle. Give the gym a chance or jog for half an hour a day, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, keep yourself hydrated, avoid drinking too much alcohol, get plenty of sleep, consider buying a SAD light box (very useful in winter time) and speak to others. Friends, family and neighbours can provide comfort. Even a few words can help ease symptoms for a while. If you think it’s more than a mild sadness caused by winter and the holidays, look for professional help. Your GP will provide the information needed and the best treatment options. Seeing a psychotherapist or joining a support group can have a positive effect as well. Talking to people who understand what you are going through will make the burden easier to carry. We are here if you need us – get in touch and let’s make us help.

Photo: pixabay.com

You Have Been Diagnosed with a Mental Illness. Now What Do You Do?

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People deal with a wide range of emotions when they are first diagnosed, ranging from relief to fear.  Some may feel relieved to know the cause for all their symptoms is real and not “all in their head”, while others may face an existential crisis and wonder “Why did this happen to me?”

One in every five Americans has a mental illness, and many more experience acute episodes of sadness that is akin to depression. So no matter how alone you may feel, you are truly not; furthermore, nowadays they have more treatment options available than ever before, making the light at the end of the tunnel much, much brighter. You can make your treatment and recovery work for you once you find the right treatment and really work at it.

Taking control of your treatment and recovery:

Do research about your mental illness. You want to find out as much as you can about your diagnosis. Once you discuss your symptoms with your psychiatrist and receive a diagnosis, ask for some reading material about your specific diagnosis. Finding out about your symptoms leads to mindfulness and self-awareness, which is key in symptom management. Talk to people who have your mental illness about what treatments worked for them, and bring these alternatives up to your psychiatrist.

Find emotional support. Educate your friends and family about your mental illness. Talk about your symptoms and how they might impact the family. Explain to them how they can help you and how they can be a part of your treatment. Having empathy from the family could make a significant impact in recovery. There are many support organizations such as DBSA that offer support for individuals with depression or Bipolar Disorder and their families. Finding people who understand what you are going through and have succeeded in their treatment can be very reassuring.

Determine your health care options. Typically most people receiving treatment for a mental illness have a psychiatrist and a therapist. Compile a short list of psychiatrists in your insurance network and do some research on them for ratings and reviews. You want to make sure that other people have had good experiences with this doctor. Do a similar search to find a few therapists that you can call. Ultimately, once you have that shortlist of doctors and therapists, who you choose will come down to which psychiatrist and therapist you can get in to see first. Don’t leave out the possibility of intensive day programs as a treatment option, as they can be very helpful with learning coping skills and curbing problematic behaviors.

Be honest and open with your psychiatrist or therapist. Bring questions about your diagnosis and treatment to your appointments. Speak openly about your progress or any difficulties you are having. Your treatment is ultimately what YOU make of it.

Continually persevere and advocate for yourself and recovery. Be assertive – make sure your needs are being met, both in your personal relationships and your treatment. Before long, you will be on the road to recovery and back to living your life again.

Avoiding a Depression Relapse

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When it comes to depression, the road to recovery can bring many mixed emotions: relief, worry, joy, and even fear. With the help of therapy and/or medication, many people do indeed experience this recovery. Yet in the back of their minds, they might be wondering what they can do to avoid a depression relapse.

If you are recovering from depression and questioning what the future might hold for you, try taking the following steps to help you avoid or manage a depression relapse.

Counseling Center For Emotional GrowthDon’t stop your treatment regimen until you talk with your care provider

Though you might feel better, stopping medication without the supervision of a care provider can have dire consequences. You might experience headaches, sleep interruptions, or even symptoms of withdrawal.
As such, make sure to ask your doctor about changing your medication regimen. They can guide you in ceasing, cutting back, or even sticking with your current dosage(s).
Remember too that quitting therapy sessions can have negative consequences. While some therapy methods are intended for short-term outcomes, others are intended to take place over longer periods of time. Discontinuing therapy can leave some much-needed work undone and can leave you more vulnerable to a depression relapse.

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