Overcoming Depression During the Holidays

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By Todd Hutton, M.D., medical director, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy, MemorialCare Center for Mental Health & Wellness, Community Hospital Long Beach

Feeling down during the holidays can be tough, especially when it seems like the rest of the world is moving along without a worry. At a time when everything surrounding you says you should be cheerful and full of “holiday spirit” it also can be very difficult to overcome depression. During this time of year, it is important to take the time to put things into perspective and recognize what is causing you stress.

Know When to Seek Help

If you feel that you or someone you know is experiencing depression during the holidays it is important to be able to spot the differences in behavior. Signs that are indicative of clinical depression include:

  • Persistent sad tearful mood
  • Loss of interest in the things you used to like
  • Weight loss/gain or loss of appetite
  • Increased/decreased motor function
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of death
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Constant fatigue

Knowing these signs and symptoms is the first step to treating your depression and overcoming it.

Three Factors or Causes for Stress

The holidays often cause people to feel down because things literally do change at this time of year. Three main factors that can cause stress during the holidays:

  • People are busier
    – Juggling shopping, holiday parties, work and year-end financial responsibilities can be mentally exhausting and cause lots of unwanted stress.
  • Focus on family
    – Everything holiday related seems to focus on family. For those who are not geographically close to their family, or with unfavorable family histories, the holidays foster emotions of loneliness or being outcast.
  • Days are shorter
    – Exposure to less sunlight and grayer skies can affect a person’s mood and general outlook.

Overcoming Holiday Stress

If you feel you may be experiencing depression during the holidays, be proactive about the way you do things and seek support. In order to stay clear of depression, it is important to have a good social support system and really asses the things that are troubling you.

  • Pace yourself, don’t overwork during the holidays by trying to make sure things are “perfect.” The holidays should be a fun time.
  • Remember to sleep, eat and drink regularly. Overindulging can lead to other factors that may cause more stress.
  • Reset your expectations and be realistic about your holiday goals. If you’re shopping for a present and find one that works well enough, go with that.
  • Focus on the good, and don’t let what you can’t do, take control of your feelings.
  • Keep your routine. Get up and out of bed when the sun is out to get enough exposure to daylight.

Through the season it is important to keep sight of what makes you happy. Being aware of this can help you focus on the things you want to do, rather than what you “should” be doing, which in turn can eliminate unnecessary burdens you’ve place on yourself. Happy Holidays!

For help 24/7, call the MemorialCare Center for Mental Health & Wellness at Community Hospital Long Beach at (855) CHLB-4-HELP.

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