Sparkling Christmas lights, holiday party invites and cheery music are hallmarks of the winter holidays. They all send the same message: It’s the happiest season of all!
But for many people, it’s not. For some, the hustle and bustle of the season add a new level of stress and anxiety. For others, after the hubbub dies down and the dark days of winter settle in, life can get pretty dreary.
A minor case of the holiday blues is normal and usually short-lived. But Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) a more severe type of the winter doldrums, lasts much longer. Although the symptoms are similar, SAD usually begins in September or October and lingers until spring. People with SAD tend to eat more, sleep more and stay at home. In addition to a feeling of sadness, the disorder can also have significant physical symptoms.
Eating right, getting regular sleep, exercising often (which does not including running through the stores to get last minute gifts) and participating in outdoor activities in the sunlight can help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Beyond the Holidays
Yet, for 1 in 10 Americans, the holiday blues run much deeper. These people struggle with depression throughout the year. Popular belief holds that the holidays see the highest number of suicides. However, it’s actually the month of March. People with major clinical depression see everyone around them shake off the winter blues, which may increase their sense of hopelessness.
It’s important to know and understand the difference between the holiday blues/Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression. Major depression (see symptoms below) is much more debilitating and affects multiple areas of your life, including your ability to function on a daily basis.
Common Symptoms of Depression
- Little interest or pleasure in doing things
- Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless for an extended period of time
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
- Feeling tired or having little energy
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Feeling bad about yourself or like you let yourself or your family down
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Trouble concentrating on simple activities, such as reading the newspaper or watching television
Depression cannot always be prevented, but it can be treated. If you experience any of the symptoms above to the point you have difficulty maintaining your normal activity level and relationships, contact your primary care doctor.
Related article: Beat the Blues