CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — During the holidays, many people often focus on the joy and celebration, but for many others, it can be a difficult time.
Some people struggle with the loss of a loved one or financial turmoil made worse by hefty Christmas shopping.
The "holiday blues" start around Thanksgiving and can last until the new year. And sometimes even into the month of March.
The holiday season is supposed to be about celebration and spending time with family, but for many it triggers anxiety, sadness, and depression.
“What we used to call holiday blues is true diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Now, there are sometimes where we get sad during the holidays for various reasons, loved ones are not around, we miss people, financial difficulties, a lot of different reasons, but when it comes down to true depression, there is the phenomenon of Seasonal Affective Disorder,” said Bayview Behavioral Hospital Medical Director Dr. John Lusins.
Hectic holidays can leave you feeling physically and emotionally drained.
“During these times, there is a significant change in mood, not just some tearfulness and sadness you get from watching a Hallmark movie or something like that, but more so the thought of being hopeless, worthless, guilt that doesn’t really fit with your current situation. And in worst case scenarios, you can have suicidal thoughts,” said Lusins.
Interestingly enough, suicide rates don’t increase, but patients do search for other ways to cope.
“People during these times will start to self medicate instead of going to seeking help, increasing their alcohol use, taking prescription medications from others just to get through the anxiety of the holidays, or even indulging in other drugs...definitely,” said Lusins.
Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent from going into that"holiday blues" state of mind.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder is treated in many different ways, including therapy that is very effective, antidepressant medications, but also for this disorder there is light therapy, where people are prescribed a certain lamp that has a certain wavelength that you use for 20 minutes a day during this time because often, people are not outside getting that Vitamin D, getting the sunlight that they need,” said Lusins.
But that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel overwhelmed or stressed.Just remember, there’s always somebody that is willing to listen to you.
“Reach out to others and talk to somebody; reach out to a friend for coffee. There are so many expectations that come with the holidays to be perfect, to have the right gifts. It doesn’t have to be that way. The most important thing is that you are okay, and that is all that matters,” said Lusins.
Other tips to manage holiday stress:
- Have a heart-to-heart. Find someone you can talk to.
- Limit alcohol intake. The Center for Disease Control and Preventionrecommends no more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks a day.
- Stick within your normal routine as much as you can. Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with all the additional holiday activities.
- Set a realistic budget and then stick to it. There are manydifferent resources that can help you plan your spending.
- Do not label the season as a time to cure past problems.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. That means don’t go to parties when you don’t really have time. Don’t take on events that will crowd your time. Don’t overextend yourself.
- Find time for yourself.
- Enjoy free holiday activities.
Take control of the holidays:Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays.
Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown.
With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.
Symptoms:Although depression may occur only once during your lifetime, people typically have multiple episodes. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
For many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships with others. Some people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.