As a country, we have been suffering many losses and emotional ups and downs. During the holiday season, we experience many emotions, from joy and happiness to anxiety and depression. The terms often used during this time of year when depression and anxiety are experienced are the “holiday blues,” “holiday depression,” or “winter blues.”
Holiday blues are differentiated from other mental health conditions because:
- It is short-term — it may begin around November and is over after the new year
- The symptoms are milder than Major Depressive Disorders or Seasonal Affective Disorder
- It is not a clinical diagnosis
Holiday blues may include feelings of sadness, being overwhelmed, loneliness, grief, guilt, worthlessness, and/or painful reflection. Behaviors may include isolation, change in appetite, poor concentration, increased sleep, fatigue, lack of interest in things, and irritability. People with a current mental illness may have exacerbated symptoms during this time.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms when thinking about the holidays, here are a few tips to help you get through:
- Stay engaged with people that make you happy. If you do not have family or friends, find people in clubs, organizations, or meetups around things that you like. Connecting with others will help you feel uplifted.
- Stay active. Action or activity in the form of exercise or movement is a natural antidepressant. Turn on your favorite music and get moving!
- Be thankful. Show gratitude through your words; start a gratitude journal. It can look and be anything you want it to be, from pictures, images, drawings, or a list of everything you are thankful for.
- Love yourself. When you are in love with someone, you make sure that they are happy and their needs are met; you shower them with gifts and affection. Do this for yourself. Ask yourself, how have I shown my love for myself today?
- Sleep well. Sleep around eight hours a night. Make sure that your environment is conducive to sleep. The bed is comfy, the temperature in the room is right, and you have started to calm your body down with some relaxation techniques.
- Alcohol is a depressant. If you drink and you are depressed, it will make it worse. Watch your mood and behavior and make responsible decisions around alcohol.
- If nothing else, maximize whatever you do that makes you happy during hard times.
Now, if the holidays are your jam, share your joy and happiness with others. Check in with your co-workers, neighbors, loved ones, or anyone else that you meet, and maybe ask what the holidays mean to them. If possible, offer a hug, smile, or a dinner invitation. Be sure to pay attention to your emotions as well because you can inadvertently put too much on your plate. Avoid overwhelming yourself and welcome realistic expectations to avoid holiday stress. It is okay to say no to some obiligations (even if you have already committed) and to say yes to joy and happiness.
If the holiday season passes and you are still feeling emotional into the new year, it may be more than holiday blues. It might be time to reach out to your healthcare provider and discuss how you feel. Remember, you are not alone, and you can get better.
Reference - Greenstein, L. (2015). Tips for managing the holiday blues.
Dr. Tiffany M. Smith is an Integrative and Functional Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and owner of Aroma Functional Nutrition Psychiatry. She leads her patients to total well-being through a holistic and natural approach to mental health care.
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