‘Tis the season of… holiday depression?

Articles Comments Off on ‘Tis the season of… holiday depression? , , , , ,

sparkler-677774_1280
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


Old wounds and new relationships

Articles Comments Off on Old wounds and new relationships , , , ,

just-the-two-of-us-1240146-1599x908Falling in love and entering a relationship are some of the most beautiful experiences a human being can have. However, forming a couple can be a bumpy road once the waves of dopamine and serotonin begin to settle…

For some people a committed relationship is a reason to experience stability, security and long-term happiness while for others the reality is far from that. To this second category it all feels like a movie they’ve seen before – great start, bad ending! One of the reasons why many people fail to develop a healthy attachment to someone else and build a lasting relationship is the chain of personal relationships they went through, a chain that can go as far back as early childhood.

In an ideal world, every baby would have a good enough parent to offer them all the love, care and security they need. Later on, people would find partners that understand, support and love them for what they are. In an ideal world people could still make relationship mistakes, but also learn from them in order to make better choices in the future. However, we live in a world far from the ideal where some of us never find that special one. Why? Because previous relationships can shape our understanding of and behaviour in current ones. Here’s a short intro into the dynamic of past and present relationships:

Parental relationships and old wounds

We start learning about relationships as soon as we are born. The way parents/tutors/carers attend to our needs, as well as the attention and the time they pay to us are extremely important in our development as relational beings. When we are babies everything that comes (or doesn’t come) from our parental figures matters. For example, a parent who is physically or emotionally absent can foster unpleasant emotions in their child, from making them feel anxious or insecure to feeling unworthy, unloved and abandoned. Although the child might be too young to consciously label their emotional experiences, they often end up developing a pattern of relationships that will be repeated in other significant human interactions, such as in a romantic couple. Old relationships model the future ones. Hence, they may look for partners who never treat them as a priority, who make them feel worthless and unimportant. Sometimes the person can experience such feelings even if their partner is present and loving, the reason being that they developed a certain pattern based on their primal relationship with their parents. The only model of relationship they know is a faulty one and they will try to repeat it every single time, even if they know and dread the outcome.

It’s important to note that old wounds, like the ones from early childhood, can impact us for a very long time. Without the right understanding and support, they can deprive us of the opportunity to enter and experience authentic happiness in a couple relationship.

Previous couple experiences

In Western societies, most of people don’t end up marrying their first love and living happily ever after. Usually, they have more than one love relationship and learn about the romantic couple as they go. On their way they can face betrayal, absences, cheating, miscommunication and even abuse. Such events have the potential to make them more suspicious when meeting new partners and can seriously affect the interactions with them. For example, someone can feel so hurt by being cheated on that they will start suspecting all men/women to be cheaters. On top of the trust issue they developed, they might unconsciously try to punish the current partner for something the previous one did. Unresolved business comes with us into new relationships and it has the potential to make everyone unhappy.

A mix of causes

Sometimes, a mix of primal and more recent wounds can make us pursue the wrong people or end up in the wrong relationships. Let’s say someone had the experience of an abusive parent. In many cases, this might unconsciously determine them to feel attracted only to people who could easily fit the shoes of the abuser they have known since infancy. In such cases, it is no surprise that after they leave an abusive relationship they start a very similar one. There are also cases when they don’t necessary enter a relationship with an abuser, but they might unconsciously try to provoke their partners to be abusive because they learned that in a love relationship – such as parent-child – violence is an acceptable form of expression between two people who love each other.

There are many other ways in which we are affected by previous experiences and it is a long journey to understanding what a happy, healthy relationship is. The process includes unlearning and re-learning thoughts, feelings and behaviours as well as healing past wounds that stop us from being authentic and romantically happy. Therapy can help identify maladaptive relational patterns, understand their roots and their impact in one’s life, make peace with the past, move on and get ready for a healthy relationship.

If you feel like you need support with all or any of these aspects, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Love is a blessing and we believe everyone deserves to find love and be happy with the ones they love.

Photo: www.freeimages.com


A modern dilemma: your phone or your loved ones?

Articles Comments Off on A modern dilemma: your phone or your loved ones? , , , ,

happy-family-1316748The era of all-things-smart is here and life is becoming rapidly digitalized. Everything happens online, from shopping to finding jobs or the love of our life. Smartphones are more than an extension of our hands, they are becoming an extension of ourselves and we feel incomplete when we lose them or even when we run out of battery. For most of us, it’s been probably months or years since we willingly gave technology up for a whole day. Figures vary, but all of them show that we’re technology indulgent. For example, in 2014 we used to spend more time watching TV, typing, gaming or listening to a smart device than sleeping (Communication Market report by Ofcom, 2014). The numbers are even more worrying with young people as they are online for an average of 27 hours a week. In 2015, a typical American spent about eleven hours a day using a form of media (Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, 2015).

The implications

Technology makes our life more comfortable and more entertaining, but there are costs for having it all at our fingertips. Health is one such cost, as too much computer use correlates with musculoskeletal disease, vision problems, headaches, tiredness, as well as with certain mental health problems (stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression).

Another big expense is represented by our relationships. Some of us have hundreds or even thousands of social media friends but nobody to call when we’re down. We post happy pictures of our perfect life, but we cry ourselves to sleep. We feel popular, but we are, in fact, alone. Getting in touch with someone’s virtual persona does not truly connect you with them. Face to face contact is what helps, but it becomes a luxury in a busy world where everything happens online. In this context, what we miss out on really is life itself. A sunset, a smile from a dear friend, a cup of coffee at the same table, a hand shake or a hug are vital for the humanity in us. Technology is important and it makes life easier, but it shouldn’t replace it. If you suspect that your phone is stealing your life, here’s a list of things to try in order to regain control:

Be honest with yourself

People underestimate the time spent online, believing they spend half of the time they actually do, according to a study by Andrews, Ellis, Shaw & Piwek (2015). You can use technology to see how much of your time is spent in the world of web2.0 by downloading different apps that monitor your presence online, especially on the most time consuming ones, like social media platforms. This might sound funny, but it’s a first step to giving up and it’s a step taken on your current terms: the terms of a techy person.

Try to slowly decrease the time

Once you’ve decided to spend some time apart from your phone, it’s time to really go for it. It won’t be easy, especially if you are one of those people who wake up with their phone in their hand. Again, for the moment, you can try an app that blocks your access to the sites where you spend most of your time. Even if you don’t do it for a whole day, do it for at least one hour each day. It would still make a difference!

Replace the habit

Although it might not be a proper addiction in your case, it helps to replace bad habits with healthier ones. If you decided to cut down the number of hours spent online to 2 from 4, why not join the gym in those hours, chat to a friend or read a short-story? Technology gives us access to oceans of information, but it doesn’t necessarily make us smarter, and the old ways to expand our imagination and vocabulary, such as reading, still work well.

Make a bigger difference

Because relationships define us a ‘social animals’ before anything else, it is always worth nurturing and cultivating them. When you decide to spend time with your friends instead of your phone you invest in yourself, in them and in your relationship. On the other hand, you might find out that they struggle with the same problem and trying to work together on it can have a positive impact in your smaller or larger community. So, why not do something bigger and declare Sunday a ‘tech Sabbath’ day?

Do it yourself and also encourage others to leave their phones and go hiking, running, biking, sunbathing, swimming, writing poetry in the woods or just staring at the sky in the best company your body, mind and heart can have: your loved ones!

If you need support in balancing different sectors of your life, give us a call. We are happy to help you with time management, relationships, as well as with certain addictive or potentially addictive behaviours.

 

Reference:

Andrews S, Ellis DA, Shaw H, Piwek L (2015) Beyond Self-Report: Tools to Compare Estimated and Real-World Smartphone Use. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0139004. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139004

Photo: www.freeimages.com