The holidays are fast approaching and many already know what that means – “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”
Although, if this isn’t the case for you, then hop aboard the not-so-jolly train.
Despite the otherwise joyous season, the “Holiday Blues” are a common problem among Americans and depression comes as your uninvited hick cousin Eddie and his family, imposing on your peace at Christmas setting up camp in their R.V. just outside in your front yard.
But don’t fret, just like the uninvited guests at Christmas, the holiday blues too, will eventually take a hike into an abyss that is, until next time when they spontaneously decide to show up again.
Like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), your holiday blues are common and affect up to 20 percent of Americans each year.
The difference is SAD may extend on through the holidays until the winter season ends whereas the other will only be temporary usually ending when the last relative leaves to go back home after taking the hint that they’ve over stayed their welcome.
The two seasonal disorders should not be confused with actual depression which affects millions of Americans year round and is a far more serious disorder.
“I do have depression. I do have my moments where I’m overwhelmed. I believe many people do,” says Delta student Dustin Weyand who’s depression doesn’t typically get worse during the holidays but would agree that along with the financial burden of gift giving, looming final examinations, and keeping up with grades and assignments in class, the holidays can be overwhelming especially to someone already experiencing depressive episodes.
Whether you’ve got the “Christmas Blues” or suffer from SAD and you long for the warm sunny days of spring and summer, the good news is that the cold, gray skies only last for so long.
When does something temporary such as the “holiday blues” or SAD turn into something more serious?
Comparing the blues to a depressive disorder is like comparing a cold to pneumonia.
It’s important to know the facts and to be able to distinguish something considered as seasonal as pumpkin spice during the holidays and something more chronic as a malignant tumor.
Some may not be able to identify the difference and there are those who may consider them both to be one in the same.
“While it may not be as chronic as every second of the day,” Says Weyand about his personal battle with depression,
“It’s absolutely more than anyone would ever want. Although I suppose that, for some, it may not be the Holidays that are the causation of their depression, but an enabler thereby. I believe there’s an intrinsic desire to give and to show thought for another person, and during the holiday season that’s especially acute. But making that happen isn’t necessarily realistic.” Adds Weyand.
It’s a common myth the holidays spike the suicidal rate.
This is a misconception and a false truth, because April through August are the months with the highest rates of suicide, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Chronic depression during the winter months can be fueled by the holidays adding extra stress and anxiety to an already overwhelming condition.
The Huffington Post reports millions of depressed Americans suffer from the added stresses of the holidays whether it be from grieving of loved ones who have passed on or simply overloading on Facebook activity time.
The winter/holiday season can be generally tough and emotionally draining especially for those who already suffer from bouts of depression. It’s important to realize that it’s more common than not and there is help for those who may be dealing with a severe case of depression.
Talk to your doctor if you are feeling sad for long periods of time. If your feelings of sadness during the holidays are accompanied by suicidal thoughts, do one of the following immediately:
- Call 911.
- You can call locally to the Crisis Intervention Center at (209) 468-8686
- Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
‘When I feel stressed, anxious or beat down I don’t have the best coping styles. Sometimes, walking, socializing with friends, and escaping from environments prone to encouraging stress helps. Some methods of coping, some don’t work. It depends almost entirely on the context of the illness, much like treating a fever that’s been incubating for hours versus one that is just beginning,” said Weyand.
You can improve your mood by practicing self-care during the holidays.
Eat a healthy diet, and maintain a regular sleep pattern and exercise program.
According to the kept Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, as little as 30-minutes of cardiovascular exercise can provide an immediate mood boost similar to the effects of an antidepressant medication. Joining a support group where you talk to people with similar experiences to yours can also help.