Getting Over Holiday Depression ^NEW^
A survey by the American Psychological Association found that 38% of people felt their stress levels increased during the holiday season. Stress can lead to an increased risk of illness, substance misuse, and higher rates of anxiety and depression. This was especially felt during the pandemic, when there were so many questions about how to keep events and family gatherings during COVID-19 safe.
getting over holiday depression
Yes, patterns of increased rates of depression during the holidays have been documented by doctors and mental health professionals for years. And the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that 64% of people living with a mental illness reported that their conditions worsened around the holidays.
The holiday months are spent differently by everyone, and personal circumstances play a big part in how and why someone may experience stress or sadness. But here are some of the most common causes for depression during the holidays.
Yes. This can be related to a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder with a seasonal pattern, but not always. The holiday season comes with its own set of stressors and expectations, both internally and externally. Being overwhelmed by these holiday-related stressors can lead to symptoms of depression.
Gina Moffa, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist based in New York City, says post-holiday blues are temporary and encompass a series of emotions that occur after the emotional whirlwind of the holidays is over.
If your holiday blues are not getting better or increase in severity to the point that they interfere with your day-to-day functioning, Moffa says consider reaching out to mental health professional.
Moving your body is one of the best science-backed ways to cope with depression during any season, and the holidays are no exception. A meta-analysis of 23 studies, published in September 2016 in the Journal of Affective Disorders, showed that exercise is an effective way to manage depression and could also be useful when combined with antidepressant medication.
Gundle suggests volunteering as a possible way to cope with depression during the holidays. A review article published in May 2021 in Frontiers in Psychology shows that volunteering for two or three hours a week or even 1 to 10 hours a month may offer myriad mental health benefits, such as:
THIS WEEK'S TOP TOPICSStress, depression and the holidays: 10 tips for copingThe holiday season often brings unwelcome guests: stress and depression. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands. When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past. Here are 10 practical ways to find peace and joy.
Although the holidays are supposed to be a time full of joy, good cheer and optimistic hopes for a new year, many people struggle during the holiday season when expectations are high and disrupted routines can feel overwhelming. However, some mental preparations and planning can help everyone cope with the season -- and even enjoy it.
According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season, which can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. The reasons given: lack of time, financial pressure, gift-giving, and family gatherings.
Recent studies have shown that there are also environmental factors that can contribute to feelings of depression around the holidays. Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which can result from fewer hours of sunlight as the days grow shorter during the winter months. Researchers have found, however, that phototherapy, a treatment involving a few hours of exposure to intense light, is effective in relieving depressive symptoms in patients with SAD.
Get some sun. For some people, the winter season means Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) brought on by lack of sunlight. People with SAD experience many of the same symptoms as people with depression. If you find that you have these kinds of symptoms every year or for months at a time over the winter season, talk to your doctor. People with light to moderate SAD may find relief by spending extra hours outdoors, while people with moderate to severe SAD often benefit from light therapy and/or antidepressants.
Have fun without overdoing it. Enjoying good food and drink is part of what the holidays are all about, but set limits for yourself, especially with alcohol. In the moment, it may seem like a stress reliever, but alcohol is only putting any feelings of stress or anxiety on hold. It doesn't solve any problems, and it can make things worse.
Ask for help. If there's something your friends and family can do to make the holidays more enjoyable for you, tell them. No one but you knows what you need. But if you feel like you've tried everything and you still feel down, consider getting help from a professional. Talking to a therapist, even for a few weeks, might be just the boost you need to get over your holiday blues and feel yourself again.
The holidays can be stressful under the best of circumstances. My goal every year is to enjoy them for what they are rather than imagining what they should be. And when all else fails, remember that in just a few weeks, the holidays will be over and you'll get a fresh start with a new year!
Post-vacation blues (Canada and US), post-holiday blues (UK, Ireland and some Commonwealth countries) or post-travel depression (PTD) is a type of mood that persons returning home from a long trip (usually a vacation) may experience.
In general, post-vacation blues will wear off over time. It usually takes a few days, but in extreme cases, the mood can last for several weeks before wearing off. Faster ways of treating post-vacation blues are for the person to share experiences with family and friends or to look at photos and souvenirs. Some people may find comfort in re-living their vacation experiences; for example, if one really enjoyed jet-skiing during the holiday, that person may purchase a jet-ski for personal use. Another well-known method of curing post-vacation blues is to plan or book the next vacation as this offers a distraction and also provides the person something to look forward to.
People with mental health conditions may be even more susceptible to holiday depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of those with a mental illness report feeling worse during the holiday season.
Common signs of depression during the holidays include persistent feelings of sadness. These begin during the holiday season and vary in duration and intensity. Other signs of the holiday blues include:
While it is hard to fit exercise into a busy holiday schedule, studies have shown that regular physical activity can help to reduce and prevent the symptoms of depression. Even a short walk each day can help keep depression symptoms at bay.
Prior to the holiday season beginning, consider creating a list of go-to coping skills to use whether you are at home or at a social function. It will be handy when the grief hits you unexpectedly. Some examples of coping skills are deep breathing, taking a walk, journaling, listening to music, practicing yoga, and saying positive affirmations. Bonus: here are our recommended affirmations that are balanced and not overly positive.
The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale is a concierge psychology and therapy practice specializing in helping people overcome depression, anxiety, relationship and marriage complicatons, eating disorders and more.
Knowing and understanding your symptoms and diagnosis can greatly impact your ability to maneuver the holiday season and face it head-on. Get a unique mental health plan that works for you, and stick with it during this time. Staying on top of your symptoms can help your depression from spiraling further and help you remain positive this year. One survey by the American Psychological Association uncovered some interesting data about the holiday blues:
When it comes to treating depression, speaking with a mental health professional is always recommended. They can provide advice on how to cope when you feel sad or overwhelmed during the Holiday Season and recommend specific therapies and treatments for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
Approximately 755 of overall respondents reported that the holidays contribute to feeling sad or dissatisfied and 68% financially strained. 66% have experienced have loneliness, 63% too much pressure and 57% unrealistic expectations. 55% found themselves remembering happier times in the past contrasting with the present, while 50% were unable to be with loved ones.
The holidays are supposed to be a time of cheer and celebration. But a 2014 study from the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that 64 percent of Americans with a diagnosed mental health condition report feeling worse over the festive season.
"The holiday season beams a spotlight on everything that is difficult about living with depression," one of the participants said in the survey. "The pressure to be joyful and social is tenfold." Many reported feelings of fatigue, tension, loneliness, frustration, sadness and loss, which tend to be magnified during the week between Christmas and New Year's.
Niggling anxieties about how much money you have spent and how much chocolate you have eaten, combined with the cold reality of going back to work, can make this a difficult period for many. So why do we get post-holiday depression, and what can you do to beat it?
"From my own clinical practice, I can tell you that people who already experienced some anxiety or depression often feel that it gets worse around the holiday stretch from Thanksgiving through New Year's and into January," she said.
Health psychologist Rae Mazzei said that festive overindulgence can also negatively affect our moods. "Overeating can lead to the post-holiday blues for numerous reasons," she said. "The physical effect of eating highly inflammatory foods, such as highly processed carbohydrates, can trigger weight gain, inflammation-related conditions, irregular sleep and metabolic dysfunction. In addition, the emotional effect of overeating often leads to guilt, remorse, regret and self-criticalness."