Identifying Triggers For Holiday Depression
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12-10-13 Category: Mental Health

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, cheer, and festivities. However, for many people, holidays are often just filled with stress, anxiety, and depression. For some, the holiday blues are an annual occurrence, while other people’s struggle with holiday depression might be an anomaly.

Many things can make you depressed over the holidays. In order to remain merry and bright rather than falling victim to depression, it helps to identify the possible triggers of the season.

The Holiday Season

One of the biggest reasons for depression at the holidays is the simple fact that the holidays rarely live up to expectations. Commercials, sappy holiday movies, and selective memories make you believe the holiday season is going to be wonderful. Throughout the year, or at least the weeks leading up to the season, many people plan in order to create the perfect holiday season.

They browse through Pinterest and magazines, tagging or tearing out the pages that will help them throw the best party or make their neighbors envious by the awesome decorations. Hours are spent shopping for the perfect presents for friends, colleagues and family members. These weeks of planning create lofty expectations, which only set you up to fail.

Unrealistic Expectations

The likelihood of recreating the picture-perfect decorations or recipes found in magazines, on TV, or on Pinterest exactly as imagined is low, even though you might still do an excellent job. Cookies burn, decorating the cake turns out not exactly as imagined, or the table centerpiece might not look quite right.

The perfect present on which you spent hours working may not get the response you wanted from your friend or family member. Additionally, you are faced with crowded shopping centers, parking lots, bills to pay for all the gifts, decorations, and food. When life does not meet our expectations, it is easy to succumb to unhappy, negative emotions. The unrealistic expectations for the holiday season create an easy place to fail, leading to sadness, frustration, and even depression.

Dealing With Life

Holidays are also a time where people have to face loneliness and losses in life, which causes many cases of depression during the holidays. The intent of the Holidays is that we are supposed to be able to spend time  with loved ones and family. However, if you do not have a loving family, it can make the holidays that much harder.

Alternatively, if you love your family but cannot make it to see them due to cost of travel or other circumstances, you can find yourself feeling really lonely. If you have lost someone, whether a friend or family, the holidays are a time where grief can hit you full force. As you watch those around you going to parties, visiting family, and having fun with their loved ones, it can really make you feel very isolated, lonely and depressed.

Responsibilities And Stress

Between having to shop and cook for large holiday meals and then searching out for the ideal presents, the holidays add more stress on top of everyday stress. Fighting through overcrowded stores and parking lots and struggling with the economic burden only further increases the amount of stress, as does holiday travel. Whether you drive or fly, there are many hassles involved that increase stress levels.

Many people also get stressed when dealing with family no matter how much they might love them. It could be that your family criticizes you, especially on something with which you are already insecure like being single, your weight, or your job. Alternatively, it could just be some underlying, unresolved familial issues.

When you add all these stresses and problems on top of everyday stress, it exhausts the coping mechanisms of your body and mind and sets you up for being overly emotional and vulnerable to strong negative feelings. That is why depression, sadness and anxiety are often the dominant emotions during this time of year.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

The holidays also occur during the darkest and coldest time of the year, at least in most parts of the northern hemisphere, making it really easy to succumb to holiday depression and stress. Most people work inside all day, so they are almost never outside in the sun.

There are numerous studies about seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, and the lack of vitamin D and its affect on happiness. These circumstances lead to seasonal depression all on their own, and when you add in stress, loneliness, and unrealistic expectations, it is easy to fall victim to the holiday blues.

Coping With Depression

Luckily, there are some simple ways for coping with holiday depression. First, identify the generic triggers and your own personal triggers for depression. Take an active role in trying to manage your expectations. While picturing the holiday it is important to remember that life is not perfect.

Keep in mind all the chores, shopping trips, and problems you will have to face in order to create the holiday festivities. This does not mean you should not strive to create the ideal holiday season for your family. Just remember that it will involve a lot of time, energy, frustration, and there is a possibility that you will not create exactly what you expect.

If you become lonely over the holiday season keep these holiday depression tips in mind to manage your emotions during the holidays:

  1. Find someone to whom to reach out: There is most likely someone in your life willing to let you in if you allow them.
  2. Manage your stress: Make sure to exercise, employ meditation, and if you’re feeling adventurous, try some yoga.
  3. Vitamin D supplement: If you are susceptible to being affected by the dark and dreary days, look into Vitamin D supplement or get out into the daylight during your lunch break.

Reaching Out

If you find that beating the holiday blues is beyond your control, then you should ask for help. You can begin outpatient psychotherapy, or you can try a residential treatment program for depression, like that at Sovereign Health Group. The power to stop the endless cycle of the holiday blues is in your hands. You just need to ask for help, whether you always feel depressed during the holiday season or you find yourself struggling through an exceptionally difficult period.

Blog post by: Marissa Maldonado

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