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.