‘Tis the Season. The season where “Have a holly, jolly” squares off versus, “Bah! Humbug!” Sometimes, the “most wonderful time of the year” is not the merriest time of the year for many Americans.
In fact, Thanksgiving ushers in a very stressful time of year that involves many of the worst strains of the year. Financial pressure, family issues, short days with lots of darkness, over-commercialization and unrealistic expectations can really pile up on some people. For some, these holiday strains can lead to or worsen depression. Here’s what Dr. Bryce Peterson, family medicine doctor at Ogden Clinic, has to say.
What is depression?
The main definitions of depression are a temporary drop in mood from something sad happening and a more long-lasting change in mood that develops into a medical problem. Depression is also used as an abbreviation for some of the depressive syndromes such as dysthymia, major or minor depression, bipolar depression or others.
Medically, depression means that the feeling of sadness has been the main emotion for the majority of a person’s waking hours for at least a two-week stretch and is affecting how you are functioning. This makes it easy to see the real distinction between these definitions of depression — one is a normal response involving sadness and the other is abnormal, interfering with the normal function in your life.
The consequences of the joyous season
Unfortunately, during the “happiest time of year,” there is an up-swing in the number of patients with depressive symptoms. The stresses of this season can weigh heavily on patients; the shorter, darker days and other factors (such as genetics, excess drinking, a lack of sleep, or a drop in exercise due to cold weather) can foster serious slips in some people’s moods — men and women.
Reach out for help
Just as there are many issues that can worsen mood, there are many factors that can brighten mood, too. While these tools are not unique to holidays, they can be especially helpful in this stressful time. For example:
- Recognize there is a problem and acknowledge your emotions.
- Reach out for help, whether from family, friends, a counselor or your physician.
- Learn to say “no” to many of the unrealistic expectations of others and, more frequently, ourselves. (This may be the single most important action to improve your spirits.)
- Remember the holiday spirit of being thankful and provide service to others.
- Don’t miss out on a good party or holiday by trying to make it perfect.
- Get enough sleep.
- See the sun for at least a few minutes every morning.
- Journal, and write down the positive aspects of your life.
For some, medical treatment is a potent and necessary tool to help improve mood and allow some to escape the doldrums of depression. Your family physician is anxious to help you find the right combination of all of these treatments to help you feel better.
There are many factors that can contribute to the “holiday blues,” but there are also many options for help. If you are feeling down for longer than two weeks and/or your life is being affected by this, please see your family doctor and reach out for help.