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Depression and Holidays


Remember - you are not a loser for scaling back. Other people would probably love to do it too, but there's major peer pressure to "enjoy" holidays to their fullest.

The holiday season for most people is a fun time of the year filled with parties, celebrations and social gatherings with family and friends. For many people, it is a time filled with sadness, self-evaluation, loneliness, and anxiety about an uncertain future.

Most of us, at some time in our lives, have felt depressed around the holidays. It happens when our grand holiday expectations collide with the reality of squabbling in-laws, sullen teenagers, disappointing gifts, and over-limit credit cards. It happens as soon as we hear the sound of relatives resuming their old familiar, dysfunctional roles in the family.

Even in an un-depressed state, the holidays are stressful and often disappointing.

As the holidays approach each year, more and more people suffer from Holiday Depression. Some experts blame it on factors relating to nutrition. Nutritional experts believe that depression is caused by the excessive sugar and fatty foods coursing through our bodies.

Seniors are more susceptible to holiday depression:

Seniors can have an especially hard time with the holidays. Lots of reasons can contribute to this. The loss of an important person in the last year, or the anniversary of a loss or traumatic event can make memories come back that can dampen spirits.

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said they have suffered from depression during the holidays, often to such an extent that they do not take part in the season's activities. Depression and suicides generally occur at a higher ratio during the holidays than at any other time of the year.

Womens and holiday depression:

"The survey shows that there are many women who unnecessarily suffer from depression during the holidays," says Amy Niles, president of the NWHRC. "The good news is that careful planning, regular exercise, support from loved ones and treatment by a health-care professional can help individuals overcome depression and enjoy the holidays."

The women reported not attending parties, decorating, shopping or giving presents due to their depression. They also reported drinking too much and said stress and anxiety - not family, gifts or holiday cheer -- were the first terms that came to mind when thinking about the holiday season.

However, more than half the women surveyed agreed that there are ways to help prevent the onset of depression. These included the setting of realistic expectations, exercising, establishing a budget and volunteering to help others in need.

Causes of holiday depression:

Sadness is a truly personal feeling. What makes one person feel sad may not affect another person. Typical sources of holiday sadness include: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial stress, and the inability to be with one's family and friends. Balancing the demands of shopping, parties, family obligations, and house guests may contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed and increased tension. People who do not view themselves as depressed may develop stress responses, such as: headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating, and difficulty sleeping. Others may experience post-holiday sadness after New Year's/January 1st. This can result from built-up expectations, disappointments from the previous year, coupled with stress and fatigue.

Action Strategies: Holidays and Depression

I have some suggestions for the depressive's holiday, drawn from my experience. By the way, these are also good for the non-depressive who's totally stressed out and at the end of his/her rope.

First and foremost, if you suffer from lonliness or holiday depression, do not be alone for the holidays! Even if it means volunteering your time to help the needy at a food line or soup kitchen, do not be alone. There are many valuable programs to become involved with well before the holidays, and such involvement on your part will lessen your feelings of lonliness, of low self-esteem and low self-worth.

A second option might be attending holiday celebrations, such as candlelight church services that serve to warm the heart, or gala musical concertos that fill our spirits with the beauty and fulfillment of song. This also helps those depressed to feel less sorry and encourages a light heart when those in the depressed person's environment are happy and involved in the church or musical service.

  • Keep in mind that taking care of oneself is a gift to everyone else because everyone ends up having a happier and healthier holiday.

  • Instead of making yourself go through the ordeal of sending out paper Christmas cards, send electronic ones instead. Amazon have a good selection of free holiday e-cards.

  • If you must send out cards, just sign them instead of racking your brain trying to come up with something cheerful.

  • If the usual Christmas music is really grating on your nerves, try different music, like classical or choral renditions of carols.

  • Not being able to do what they used to do in years past can be difficult to handle as an elder may be "stuck" on looking at what they used to do during the holiday season. It can be hard to cope with the reality that a six course dinner for twelve isn't feasible anymore.

  • Define your personal limits and then stick to them. Decide for yourself how much you want to participate in activities, entertain guests, visit with relatives, or travel during the holidays. There is no one correct way to enjoy the season, so lose the guilt about choosing your own schedule. You'll feel more in charge of your own life, and less likely to feel stressed or depressed.

  • Scale back on your decorating. Don't wrap the house and bushes in lights. Put the wreath on the door, and you've taken care of the decorating for the outside of the house. Decorating a Christmas tree is a monumental task, especially if you get a live tree. Consider scrapping it for this year, or just having a mini tree.

  • People forget about exercise around the holidays. In most parts of the world, the weather is cold and the sky is dark. Make sure you are exercising daily and sending more oxygen to your brain cells. The result of exercise will improve your health as well as your attitude.

  • My Mother always says, "if you can't say anything nice about others, don't say anything at all." However, when you find yourself in a conversation and a relative says, "Remember Uncle Phil?" " He was an alcoholic"
    Respond with " yes, Uncle Phil was an alcoholic and he was the most charitable person, I have ever met."
    Connect your friend's negative statement about Phil with a positive one.

  • If you can afford to, arrange to take a vacation during Christmas. Go somewhere tropical or where Christmas isn't celebrated, and just avoid the whole thing. You can use the excuse of getting ready for your vacation as a way to avoid social commitments.

  • Try to stay away from the alcohol that's flowing freely this time of year. Very simply, alcohol is a depressant. It's the last thing you need. It may relieve the pain for a little while, but you'll probably end up feeling sad and maudlin.


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