The crisp autumn air signals the arrival of major holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year’s. There is an unspoken expectation of unlimited cheer, unlimited entertaining, and limitless budgets. Family and visitors arrive for quality time together whether you like them or not!
Holidays can be wonderful, but we can all agree they are very stressful too. Relationships, finances and even the weather are all stretched to the maximum; usually just far enough before breaking. We are all “stressed-out” this time of year and for many, this is a season of anxiety and depression. The holiday stress combined with dreary darkness and bitterly cold weather that keeps us all inside is a perfect recipe for the “Holiday Blues.”
Common symptoms of depression include a change in sleep, change in appetite, decrease in energy, poor concentration, increased feelings of guilt, and feeling “blue,” “down,” or more irritable. Although these symptoms may be a common experience, if they persist for more than two weeks, clinical depression may be present.
For many, these symptoms may only be present in the fall and winter. This is commonly referred to as “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” The added stress of the holidays, with all their deadlines, expectations, and the invariably exhausting schedules, just add fuel to the depression fire. Luckily, with appropriate treatment, these holiday winter blues can be prevented and remedied.
Appropriate treatments can include talk therapy, medications, and even light therapies. In addition, learning to balance responsibilities and expectations can be just as helpful in prevention and treatment.
Talk therapy can assist in coping with all the holiday expectations and relationships. Developing the ability to say “no” in a graceful way can be just as powerful as taking medication.
On the topic of medication, there are more than 30 options available that can be extremely helpful in treating clinical depression. Most people need to take the medication for only a few months, then, under appropriate supervision, it can be stopped.
Light therapy is a very successful and safe way to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder that is so common this time of year. Twenty minutes each morning with the appropriate light-box will not only lighten your room, but will brighten your spirits as well.
Appropriate prevention and treatment of depression and winter blues will allow you to enjoy the holiday season in-spite of being stressful.
You can find out more about the “Holiday Blues” and how to treat them at a free presentation on Tuesday, Dec. 4 in Griffin Hospital’s Meditation and Learning Center, 130 Division Street, in Derby. The presentation is part of Griffin’s new Healthy U Tuesday Talks, a series of free talks by Griffin’s medical experts about health care issues, certain conditions and their latest treatments and preventative health. Visit griffinhealth.org or call 203.732.1511 for more information.
If you feel you are in need of psychiatric help for your depression, please contact Griffin Hospital’s Psychiatric & Mental Health Services at 203.732.7580. You can also find an online questionnaire to help determine if you are clinically depressed at griffinhealth.org/phyciatric-services.