The holidays often bring an increase in feelings of sadness or depression for many people. Studies show rates of depression diagnoses and symptoms rise during this time of year. The National Alliance on Mental Illness found nearly two-thirds of people with a mental illness report worsened symptoms around the holidays.
Why does this happen? The holidays bring added responsibilities, social pressures, and anxiety for many. Having too many commitments or complicated family dynamics can increase stress loads. Painful memories or grief over lost loved ones may also intensify.
For some, a lack of sunlight in winter plays a role. Less sun exposure means lower vitamin D and serotonin levels, which can worsen mood and sleep issues. Staying indoors due to cold weather reduces opportunities for exercise, another factor in mental health and mood.
Common Causes and Triggers of Holiday Depression
The holidays can be a tough time for many. If you’re feeling down, don’t beat yourself up – you’re not alone. There are a few common causes for the holiday blues.
The extra demands on your time and money during the holidays can pile up and become overwhelming. Trying to create the perfect holiday experience for your friends and family when you’re already stretched thin can push you into a state of distress.
You’re running around shopping, attending parties, cooking meals, cleaning the house for guests – it’s exhausting! Lack of sleep and rest often comes with the territory during the holidays, draining your energy and mood. Make sure to schedule in time for yourself to prevent burnout.
Are you putting pressure on yourself to make everything perfect? Comparing yourself to images of picture-perfect holidays portrayed in media can fuel feelings of inadequacy. Remind yourself that real life isn’t a movie. Keep your expectations realistic and focus on what matters, like connecting with loved ones.
If you can’t be with friends or family during the holidays or have recently lost a loved one, feelings of sadness and loneliness may arise. Connecting with others who are alone during the holidays can help. Call or video chat with the important people in your life. Your community or place of worship may also offer support programs.
Signs and Symptoms to Look Out For
The holidays can be a difficult time for many people. If you’re feeling persistently sad, irritable, or anxious this season, you may be experiencing signs of holiday depression.
- Changes in appetite or sleep: You may notice changes in your eating or sleeping habits, like overeating, loss of appetite, or sleeping too much or too little. These changes can disrupt your routine and sap your energy, leaving you feeling more depressed.
- Depressed or irritable mood: Feeling down, hopeless, or irritable for most of the day nearly every day is a hallmark of depression. If you’re snapping at loved ones, crying, or feeling like nothing will cheer you up, take note.
- Difficulty concentrating: If you’re struggling to focus at work or home or finding simple tasks overwhelming, it may indicate depression. Your mind may feel foggy or preoccupied with negative thoughts.
- Feelings of worthlessness: Do you feel like a failure or a burden to others? Thoughts of worthlessness and excessive guilt are common symptoms of depression that often worsen during holidays.
- Loss of pleasure: Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy, like hobbies, socializing, or sex? Feeling disconnected from pleasurable parts of life is a sign your depression may have deepened.
How To Cope With Holiday Depression
The holidays can be an emotionally difficult time for many people. Here are some tips to help you cope with holiday depression:
- Don’t Isolate Yourself: Make plans to connect with others, whether it’s close family or friends. Social interaction and support can help lift your mood and ease feelings of loneliness.
- Exercise Regularly: Exercise is a natural mood booster. Even taking a 30-minute walk can help. Try to get outside for some fresh air and sunlight whenever possible. Exercise releases endorphins that improve your mood and act as natural antidepressants.
- Learn to Say ‘No’: Don’t feel obligated to attend every holiday event or party you’re invited to. It’s okay to say no. Choose one or two key events to attend and skip the rest. Saying no will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and can help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Find Time for Yourself: Make sure to schedule time for yourself to do something you enjoy. Read a book, listen to uplifting music, pursue a hobby, or practice self-care. Taking a break from holiday stresses and focusing on yourself will help recharge your mood and ease negative feelings.
- Set Realistic Expectations: Don’t pressure yourself to create the perfect holiday experience. Focus on what matters to you and keep traditions simple. Ask others for help when you need it, and try not to dwell on things you cannot control.
Help is Always Readily Available
The holidays can be a difficult time for many people. Feelings of sadness, loneliness, and depression are common reactions to the season. While these feelings are normal, it’s important to reach out for help if they are persistent or intense.
Reach out to MD Home Detox for compassionate support. Our caring staff provides guidance and resources for those struggling during the season. You don’t have to go through this alone. Help is available anytime you need it.