Holiday depression is the phenomenon of feeling depressed around the holidays. This is due to a combination of stress, anxiety, and loneliness about the holiday season. This can also be a manifestation of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
For some people, mental health often declines around the holidays due to unrealistic expectations about how they are supposed to feel and behave. Placing a lot of emphasis on just one day can cause the "holiday blues" which manifests as depression symptoms. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to overcome these feelings and get the most out of the festive season.
The holiday blues can differ from person to person, ranging from bouts of negative feelings to clinical depression and even suicidal thoughts. Other symptoms of holiday depression may include:
Many of these symptoms are in line with those of major depressive disorder (MDD), also known as clinical depression. A diagnosis for this mental illness typically involves five or more of these symptoms being present for two weeks or more while causing demonstrable impairment or distress.
During the holiday season, daylight hours are low and weather conditions are usually worse than in warmer months. This is also often a stressful season in which most people suffer some financial pressure due to societal expectations to buy gifts for friends and family.
Furthermore, seasonal pattern depression negatively impacts people's motivation. This makes it more difficult to maintain interpersonal relations, which can lead to social isolation. This in turn contributes to feelings of loneliness which can exacerbate the stress and sadness they may already be experiencing.
Although the exact cause of seasonal affective disorder is unknown, this seasonal pattern of depression is thought to be caused by several overlapping factors:
SAD is a well-established subtype of major depressive disorder. Diagnosis for this condition depends on repeated depressed episodes occurring during the same period, with the symptoms typically receding during the rest of the year. Although most episodes come on during late fall, this is not always the case.
This combination of factors can lead to major depressive disorder (MDD) for some people. SAD is an onset subtype of this condition expressed in a seasonal pattern, so some people with MDD may struggle more in winter.
There are steps you can take to manage depression. Wellness looks different from person to person. Trying a variety of healthy coping mechanisms can be a fruitful endeavor in finding elements of self-care which are useful to you.
You may find one or more of the following self-care methods useful for coping with SAD:
Of course, general self-care tips are also useful for managing SAD such as:
Getting professional help and maintaining a healthy support system are important coping tools for all mental health conditions. Lifestyle changes such as improving your diet and exercising regularly can improve help wellness.
Certain foods such as yogurt, salmon, and nuts may help in the production and absorption of serotonin. Combining these items with simple carbohydrates like white bread can boost their effect further. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters responsible for mood and sleep regulation. Most of the body's serotonin is produced in the gut, so a few changes to your diet could yield significant results.
Some studies have also shown that exercise can increase serotonin levels and help reduce the effects of depression. Aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, and cycling may also be particularly effective in helping to boost serotonin levels.
Not all coping mechanisms are healthy, however. For some people, excessive drinking and social isolation may feel like good short-term solutions when feeling sad, but in the long run, they can make holiday depression worse.
During the holiday season, stress levels can be higher than normal. Feeling like you have to buy expensive gifts, display holiday decorations, and schedule important activities can contribute to holiday sadness. Try to treat the holidays as a collective rather than just one day- this puts less pressure on yourself and your loved ones and makes it easier to set realistic goals.
Joy is different for every person. Comparing your holiday cheer to other people's can be counterproductive. Remember, what you see of another person's life is only a snapshot, not a full picture. Using social media during the holidays can also feel like window shopping. If you find other people's holiday photos give you more stress, perhaps unplug during that time. Instead, focus on celebrating and communicating with your support system rather than distant connections.
Capturing the essence of your holiday can improve your mood immensely. What is it you appreciate around you? Who has made your holiday special? Staying positive, especially during a holiday which can risk feeling materialistic, can help combat the symptoms of SAD.
At GIA Miami, we provide a variety of treatments for depression-related conditions. Our team is diverse and science-led, we seek to help our clients live their best lives and manage the symptoms of their mental health conditions.
Our experts tailor their care to each individual, ensuring the most suitable treatment option is made available. Some treatment options include:
Our team also provides state-of-the-art Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy (TMS). TMS is a non-invasive procedure that works by sending magnetic waves through the scalp, stimulating brain cells to heighten or lower brain activity depending on the nature of the mental health condition. By targeting the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for mood regulation, TMS is able to relieve the symptoms of depression even when other treatments have not been effective or practical.
We can empower you with an individualized support plan which targets the most challenging symptoms. Our compassionate team strives to provide excellent tailored care in a safe space where you can challenge negative thoughts. If you or your loved one are interested in starting your healing journey, please contact us today!
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