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Holiday Stress and Depression


Holiday Blues...

Sometimes I wonder if holidays hurt more people than they help. I do know that there are many people who at the very least people are sad during the holidays. Reasons vary, as does how sad people get.

Depression that is triggered by the holidays is real and can be very serious. 

I get sad for personal reasons, my mom lost a baby in the fall when I was 11 years old. My grandmother died Christmas morning. Those memories stay with me, even after all these years.

For so many, it is the loss of a loved one. It may be finances for others, divorces, missing family and friends. Of course, there is aging.

Below is information from Cleaveland Health Clinic Mental Health

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real thing. 

Onset of winter, when it gets dark earlier and temperatures plunge. As a result, seasonal depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) rise at the same time, sometimes impacting the holiday experience.
"People who find themselves in these circumstances sometimes assume that everyone else is having a happy, stress-free holiday," Dr. Potter notes. "And that can really make what they're feeling that much more challenging."

Remembering a loved one

Dr. Potter says that finding a way to acknowledge a lost loved one at your holiday get-together can be a positive experience. "Holidays can be more challenging when the loss isn't talked about because it can make that absence seem even stronger," she says. Sharing memories or a toast to the departed might be a bittersweet moment but one that can ultimately help make your holiday a richer experience. 

Setting boundaries

Difficult relationships are tested during the holidays, especially when it comes to families, but there are ways you can prepare. "It's okay to decline an invitation or to leave an event early," Dr. Potter says. "Setting those boundaries is important, just be upfront that it's important to you to attend but that you'll be leaving before the end." "It's okay to say no to attending an event you don't feel comfortable with," she adds. "You can't make everyone happy so just do the best you can. If you're honest and open, it's easier to get through these difficult events feeling like you've done your best and you're more likely to get some enjoyment out of them." If you're feeling anxious about a large gathering, Dr. Potter advises spending time with those you have good relationships with. "Focus your attention on people you feel comfortable with. And maybe find an ally with whom you can share your feelings of anxiety," she suggests. "They can give you reassurance and help steer around difficult topics of conversation or an awkward interaction." 

Staying connected

Whether you're estranged from your family, have to spend the holiday apart from them or don't have much family, you still don't have to be alone during the holidays. Says Dr. Potter, "Family isn't just about the one you're born into, it's also about the people you connect with. Spend time with your chosen family, the people who bring you happiness and joy." And if you can't be there in person, there are other ways to stay in touch. "Whether it's a phone call or video chat, there are ways you can stay connected," Dr. Potter notes. "Just remember," she adds, "you aren't obligated to have a perfect holiday and that doesn't make you any less or person or any less valuable to the people in your life." 

Participating in charity work

The holidays are time with a multitude of volunteering opportunities, notes Dr. Potter. "Doing some type of charity work or helping out in some way really helps connect with others and can do go a long way to easing that loneliness." Limiting social media use
Social media can give us a skewed perspective on the lives of others and, consequently, our own lives at any time of year. But this is particularly true at the holidays, says Dr. Potter. "Remember, what you're seeing on social media is just a highlight reel of someone's holiday. You don't see the sweat and stress that went into it and you can't make assumptions about their level of happiness." She also says that cutting down on social media can help you cut down on your own stress. "It can relieve you of feeling like you have to live up to something. Remind yourself that the holidays are about connecting, quality time and sharing joy with others and not just one 'perfect' photo." 

Seeking support and help

Even if you take some or all of these steps, you may still experience stress, depression and anxiety. A great way to alleviate those feelings is by seeking support. "If you have access to a therapist, be sure to discuss your feelings with them, especially at this time of year," Dr. Potter says. "If you don't have a therapist and think it might be a good idea, you should consider reaching out, too." If you're not sure about therapy, though, you can still find support in a trusted loved one. "Talk to a close family member or friend about what you're going through," she says. "Talking these things through and sharing similar feelings can go a long way to helping you manage your own feelings."

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