Christmas is the best time of year, right?
Answer - not necessarily.
Although Christmas is traditionally a festive time, for many people it can actually be a depressing time, due to a number of factors. Often called the ‘holiday blues,’ this depression can make people view the season with foreboding instead of anticipation.
“Everybody is suppose to love Christmas,” explained Paul Luongo, a counselor at Keystone College. “But it can have a different affect on a lot of people. Christmas is often a time when we reflect on the past year. If a person has suffered a loss, it reminds us of who is here and who is not.”
Luongo and fellow counselor Kendra Robinson provided a lecture at Keystone on Nov. 29 on how to identify holiday blues and how to deal with the situation. According to the provided information, holiday blues are temporary feelings of anxiety or depression that can be attributed to the extra stress of the holidays. But the problems must be taken seriously, because they can lead to long-term mental health conditions.
Other factors that can lead to holiday blues include extra stress and unrealistically high expectations. This can often lead to feelings of sadness, loneliness, fatigue, tension, sense of loss, and depression symptoms.
“Concerns over money can be a big factor,” Luongo explained. “The days are shorter and colder. Most of us are getting less sunlight. We all expect the holidays to be flawless. We expect to get the best gifts, and spend too much money to make someone else happy.”
Instead of spending a lot of money on someone, Luongo explained, the best gifts are often handmade items. These gifts almost always show a loved one we care a great deal about them, he said.
Although Christmas is suppose to be a joyous time of the year, Robinson explained, many people often get angry because of the heavy commercialization. They feel pressured to spend money on gifts, and that can trigger depression and other negative emotions.
Another problem is the pressure to socialize with relatives, Luongo explained. Often there’s not enough time to meet with everyone, and anxiety occurs because one relative is visited, but another is not.
Holiday blues is a common problem this time of year, with hospitals and police departments reporting high incidents of suicides and attempting suicides, Luongo said. People experiencing holiday blues can experience feelings of isolation and depression.
“Symptoms include lack of motivation, too much sleep, not enough sleep, as well as a change in appetite,” he said.
Tips to avoid the holiday blues include getting enough sleep; sticking to normal routines; taking time for yourself but do not isolate - spending time with supportive and caring people; moderation; exercising, having a ‘to-do’ list; and volunteering.
“People who are experiencing serious depression during the holidays should seek professional help,” Luongo said. “People should realize that Christmas is not perfect, no matter what the media says. Gratitude is also a key. We should be grateful for what we have as opposed to envious of what we do not.”