by Christine Morse

Holiday Depression


The day is getting shorter. The temperature is dropping. The holidays are approaching. "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" The singer croons. Family gatherings. Presents to buy. Trips to plan. A busy time of year.

Not everyone is excited for this time of year. For many people, it is a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety. Certain people may feel anxious or depressed around the winter holidays due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as seasonal depression. Many factors, including unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, and excessive commitments can cause stress and anxiety during holiday time.

During the holidays, there is an increase in the number of activities, tasks, and social events that people must manage. Being unable to be with family or friends (for whatever reason) can also be highly stressful. If you are experiencing a significant loss or actively grieving, the holidays can be a trigger. The holidays are synonymous with family, so any issues that a person has with their family will come to the forefront during this time. If there is loss, dysfunction, addiction, abuse, disconnection, separation, estrangement, or divorce occurring or affecting your family, then there is the likelihood that you will have to manage the emotions that are related to these issues. For someone already managing depression, it is an additional emotional burden.

...Unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, and excessive commitments can cause stress and anxiety during holiday time.

What helps? First, recognize that you’re not a Scrooge and you’re most definitely not alone. The “holiday blues” are real and much more common than you think. Second, be kind to yourself. Try not to be mean to yourself for what you are and what you’re not feeling.

Resist the temptation to hunker down and isolate yourself. Get up and get moving even if it’s only for short walk to get the mail. Find new ways to keep yourself occupied so you don’t dwell on your aloneness. 

To help unrealistic expectations, be honest with yourself about what you can do during the holiday season. Set realistic goals, pace yourself and get enough rest. 

If you find yourself focusing on what’s lacking, what’s not good enough, or what’s not perfect, give yourself a break by recognizing that these are just thoughts.

Take care of your health by getting plenty of sleep, eating nutritiously, and staying physically active. Go out for a short walk and breath some fresh air. Supplements and other natural treatments to support your mood and help combat the negative effects of stress can be extra helpful during the holidays. For example, vitamin D and essential fatty acid deficiencies can cause depression and are easily remedied with supplementation.

Seasonal blues are just that, seasonal.

Above all, "this too shall pass," just like anything else. Seasonal blues are just that, seasonal. So keep your head up, recognize the signs and triggers, and have a happy holiday.

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