November 2014 Newsletter — The Holidays…and Depression

Although the holidays are supposed to be a time full of joy, good cheer and hopes for a promising new year, many people instead experience seasonal depression. The holiday season is a time full of celebrating and family gatherings, but for many people, it can also be a time of loneliness, a reflection of past “failures” and anxiety about uncertainties for the year ahead.

The “holiday blues” can be created by many issues and made worse by fatigue, unrealistic expectations, greater than usual stress, and the inability to be with one’s family. The over-whelming demands of shopping, entertaining, stress to financial budgets, parties, family reunions and houseguests also contribute to heightened tension. Headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and difficulty sleeping are common holiday and stress induced ailments even for people who seldom experience depression.

While many people become depressed during the holiday season, the disproportionate pressure and anxiety contributes to even more occurrence of depression once the presents are all opened and all the company has gone home. Post-holiday let down generally occurs at the beginning of the New Year and is often the culmination of mental and emotional overload resulting in physical symptoms from excess stress and fatigue.

The following are some ways help better cope with the season:

  • Pace yourself. Organize your time, but most importantly, include time to nurture yourself.
  • Eat healthy. Don’t skip meals.
  • Restrain from drinking too much as alcohol may only make you more depressed.
  • Get enough sleep and rest.
  • Listen to relaxing music. Incorporate doing activities that are fun and satisfying that create balance in your life to help you get through your schedule. Treat yourself to a hot bath or foot soak. Find a good book that you can read and immerse yourself in a new novel or an educational book about a culture or location that you previously knew nothing about.
  • Make a list and prioritize your planned activities. Don’t stretch yourself so much to please others that you can’t enjoy the season. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. The more simply you plan your time, the more pleasure you’ll simply derive.
  • Plan to do fun or interesting things throughout the holidays rather than putting all your emphasis and preparation into just one day. Put your best effort into your plans but avoid being a perfectionist. Compassion and appreciation outweigh most gifts you can wrap.
  • Keep expectations for the holiday season within reason and focus less on making the holiday “better than ever this year” for everyone else. Remember that it isn’t possible to make everyone happy. Setting realistic goals better allows you to enjoy the season.
  • While the season may be a joyful time for others it doesn’t automatically erase reasons for you to feel sad or lonely. Honor your feelings. Work through your feelings in a healthy way with a friend or counselor.
  • Times change. Everyone’s circumstances eventually change. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t replicate the holiday to be as wonderful as you remember them as a child, or as happy as they were once before. Each holiday season can be enjoyed when we stay in the moment without focusing on the past or the future.
  • Being with people helps. Get out every day. Do something for someone else. Surprise someone with an unexpected gift or act of kindness. Buy a coffee for the person next in line at the coffee shop. Express kindness and gratitude to the busy people working behind the cash registers. If there is someone behind you in line with children or in a greater rush than you offer to let them go before you. You’ll be surprised to see how an act of kindness can come back to bless you!
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a church activity. Consider giving some warm coat you no longer wear to an organization collecting warm clothing for the community, or purchase hats, gloves and socks for these collections. Pick up some extra canned goods, peanut butter, beans, soups and other nourishing foods that are boxed and transported to families in need.
  • Celebrate the season in a way you have not done before. Check the local newspaper for activities in your community that you would enjoy attending. Be open to new experiences and making new memories. But also give yourself permission to opt out of activities that don’t fulfill you…like baking cookies or sending cards.
  • Get exercise and fresh air.
  • Spend time with people who are supportive, who care about you and your well-being. It’s a good time of year to make new friends if you are alone during special times. Contact someone you have lost touch with. Invite someone to join you for a meal or to attend a musical event, or a religious service. One lover of Christmas music suggests that if you can’t let yourself be moved by the season, allow yourself to be moved by the spirit of the music.
  • Accept how family, friends, and co-workers can share of themselves without having unrealistic expectations of them. Being able to fore go anticipation, to forgive, to let go of the past, will enhance the real meaning of the season.
  • Let your daily intention be to find one thing each and every day to be grateful for.

Recent studies have shown that there are also environmental factors which 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. Research has shown that a few hours of exposure to intense light is effective in relieving depression symptoms.

Mild forms of depression can be due to endocrine or hormonal imbalances in men or women. Often, supplementing the pituitary gland with a homeopathic remedy can balance the endocrine system of the body and give relief from mild depression. A non-intrusive evaluation can be performed easily, and can identify excesses in the body that are toxic and damaging to the body causing not only physical imbalances, but also mental and emotional imbalances. The results are then used to create a specific and customized homeopathic which addresses the deficiencies and excesses to restore mental, physical and emotional balance and health.

Yet if you experience, or know someone who shows signs of depression, (marked functional impairment; disturbances in sleep, appetite, or energy; apathy; preoccupation with worthlessness; reduced capacity to experience pleasure, lack of motivation, irritable or alienating loved ones, or acting out)  it would be appropriate to seek support now before the holidays get in full swing.

Some other considerations for help include your natural practitioner, physician, counselor or a church minister. You can also call information or go on line and look for Mental Health Crisis and Hot Line numbers in your area. In the Denver, Colorado area that number is 303-795-6187.

Honor yourself in all ways, on all days, and seek to maintain peace of heart and mind in all you do.