By: Dr. Ahsan Mahmood, Chief Medical Officer, Hamilton Center, Inc.
The holiday season is joyous and colorful. Along with all the festivities and celebrations, it also brings a mixed bag of emotions, which some refer to as seasonal affective disorder.
Festive music filling the air evokes different emotions. Depending upon which stage of life we are standing in, it can bring happiness, sadness, anxiety or depressed feelings. One can reflect upon how quickly time has passed and what has been gained or lost. Beloved family members who have passed away can be dearly missed and cause one to feel melancholic. Health concerns and financial difficulties can feel strong during the holiday season. Separation from family members can be painful during this time of year and loneliness particularly can make the heart heavy and add to feelings of depression and inadequacy.
Considering that the holiday season can be stressful, some thought and planning for these days can help. Recognizing what factors make one sad and using mitigating ways can assist in dealing with holiday blues. Recognizing when to get clinical help and separating holiday blues from clinical depression is important and should be kept in mind when dealing with self or family and friends around us. Knowing the difference can help us intervene when needed for our own health and for loved ones.
Some tips to help dealing with holiday blues can include:
- Volunteer: Helping others is a great mood lifter. Volunteering at local schools, neighborhood organizations, and clubs can create positive feelings of purpose and alleviates sadness.
- Avoid idle time: If you know that idle time is difficult for you, plan ahead. Fill your calendar with events that are fun for you. Engage in activities that will help lessen sad feelings. Reach out to positive friends. Also, plan ahead to visit places of interest and relaxation for you.
- Confide in someone: Talk about your feelings. It helps to understand why you feel the way you do.
- Catch sun and exercise: Cold winter and limited sunlight can add to seasonal symptoms of depression. Exercise and catching sunlight can be helpful with depressed mood and low energy.
If a loved one has the blues or seems depressed, include them in your activities, invite them out, and encourage them to talk about their feelings and to seek help if they are having significant symptoms which concern you of their well-being.
Holiday blues are temporary and mild, but can unleash symptoms of clinical depression. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression in self and loved ones; as prompt help can be lifesaving. One should be concerned and seek appropriate clinical help if:
- One loses pleasure or interest in most activities
- Starts to feel worthless
- Feels excessive guilt
- Significant changes in sleep or appetite
- Suicidal feelings emerge
In the case that feelings of depression set in, one should seek prompt help, and discuss their feelings with a family member or friend. Remember that holiday blues are temporary and affect many of us. We can use support and skills to deal with these effectively.