'Tis the Season to Battle the Holiday Blues

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The holiday season is in full swing now! Festive lights, the sounds of the season and holiday goodies are surrounding us on an almost daily basis. Just about everywhere you go you are reminded that it’s that time of the year. The message is loud and clear: We should be happy. We’re all happy! Right?
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Depression is a medical condition that affects one in 10 Americans, which equates to approximately 31 million people. Depression doesn’t have a season, and the holidays can be particularly difficult for those with depression. The good news is that having an emotionally rough time in your life is not a medical condition in most cases. Consider the following criteria to determine whether your feelings of depression should include a visit to your physician or to a mental health professional. 
According to Mental Health America, the country’s leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives, this time of year can be as much about anxiety, depression and stress as it is about joy:

Many factors can cause the “holiday blues”: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints and the inability to be with one’s family and friends. The demands of shopping, parties, family reunions and house guests also contribute to feelings of tension. People may also develop other stress responses such as headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and difficulty sleeping. Even more people experience post-holiday let down after January 1. This can result from disappointments during the preceding months compounded by the excess fatigue and stress.
What are the symptoms of depression? According to the Centers for Disease Control, they are:
  • Little interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Feeling down, depressed or hopeless
  • Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired or having little energy
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Feeling bad about yourself or that you were a failure or let yourself or your family down
  • Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television
  • Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed, or the opposite: being so fidgety or restless that you were moving around a lot more than usual
Depression is potentially disabling and can cause severe family and relationship problems and even loss of income. If these symptoms occur for two weeks or longer and they begin to interfere with managing everyday life, it may be more serious than just "feeling down."  

During the holiday season, feelings of depression may intensify.  Mingling at holiday parties, which may be important for work and family relationships, may feel like too much trouble. Family members may become concerned about the avoidant behavior and feel slighted by the depressed person, causing even more issues. Shopping for presents may seem like a monumental task for anyone, but the indecision that is common with depression can make the task impossible, further worsening feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Appetite changes and uncontrollable overeating can lead to increased holiday weight gain. Let us not forget that remembering lost loved ones can become almost overwhelming and the feeling of hopelessness can seem almost too much to bear. 
What does dealing with depression have to do with managing your weight? Why are we even discussing depression? 
Depression, just like excessive stress, must be managed in order for successful and long-term weight loss to occur because it can lead to overeating in those seeking to lose or maintain weight loss. Why? Likely because overeating can be used as a form of self-medication for depression, much like those who use and abuse drugs in an attempt to alter their mood. 

What do you do if you think you are depressed?

Seek help. See your primary care physician for treatment and/or a referral for help, or directly seek the counsel of a mental-health professional. Treating depression in many cases may be the missing ingredient for making your weight-loss plan stick.  Learning how to follow a diet and exercise program requires a healthy amount of mental energy. There are many new skills to master and it requires concentration and effort to make the new changes consistent and hopefully permanent. Depression is a distraction that saps your ability to reach your weight loss or maintenance goals. It also diminishes the quality of your life.    
Face depression. It is critical to your weight-loss success!

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Thank you for sharing this article. Report
Thanks for sharing, Report
Mindfulness helps. Just be in the moment, be now. Report
For lot of us, a warning sign is when expectation ? reality. Also directing anger at oneself is not helpful either. Report
I wish I had seen this article earlier, great job Report
Thank you for the suggestions. Living alone at times can cause me depression. I try to focus on happy things that happened in my life. Report
Hate holidays
My kids do not get along so I stopped holidays about 5 years ago
I suffer depression and anxiety. I get more depressed when I hear friends who go all ? Report
I agree with every comment posted so far, but while my wife and I have rejected the over commercialization of Christmas and have our own solemn celebration of giving our lives anew to Jesus every year, there is one aspect of the winter months that I haven't seen mentioned. That is a condition called "SAD" which is the acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. We came to know this condition while living in southeast Alaska (Ketchikan and Juneau) for a total of about 9 years. While working as an X-Ray Tech at the hospitals there, we had a light that would mimic the normal sunshine. We would all stand in front of that light for several minutes every day and that helped tremendously. Can this also apply to people of the lower 48 that have found being outside in the sun a little too chilly of an activity? Check out Wikipedia.com or www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov for more information. It helped us. Report
Wow, I had no idea that others felt like I do about the halloween to new Year's season. Thanks for sharing. Report
I find I measure the holidays in terms of loss...most of my family is gone, too many of my friends are, too, and 'feeding' on memories isn't healthy or happy. (I sound like I must be in my 80s, don't I? I'm not yet 60, but each person's life pattern is unique.)

This year, I'm using my music as therapy, but it's a struggle because I've developed shoulder problems that make practicing painful--another loss, but one I'm learning to address.

This, too, will pass...it always does, but the holidays are not my favorite time of the year. Giving helps, but, oh, the sorrows I then carry home from having listened. Compassion is costly sometimes. Report
The largest team on Spark is called "Dealing with Depression. It started about five and a half years ago when PTSD suddenly reared up and took over my life. The subsequent acute, chronic depression nearly caused me to commit suicide. After I finally got the right blend of psychotropic drugs going, I still felt like my family, friends and acquaintances couldn't talk to me about something they had never experienced.

I had just started using Spark and was on a couple of teams when I realized there may be people suffering the same as I was, so I sent a query on the old Spark platform and received 5 answers. We felt like we helped each of us, so we started a Spark Team.

The Spark Team I co-founded those few years ago now has about 3/4 of a million members. One of the first things we did was to make it very plain that we were not any sort of health professionals, but we could talk about how we felt and what seemed to help us. We also stole a Hippocratic oath, "First, do no harm", and went on from there.

Over time, 4 years +/-, and after sharing about my problems and caring about the problems others faced, I gave up one of the Team Leaders roles. I still visit the site every now and then and if I see a thread where someone is really struggling, I try to put my two cents in and assure them that there is a future. Even if a person's depression has gotten so bad they have to be on a regimen of medications, fighting the medical balancing of chemicals is not something you can ever be without.

Like a lot of people, I tried lower doses of one of the four drugs I was taking. I was able to cut it in half (it was an anxiety drug), but found going lower put me in a tail spin. I was able to do the same thing with the drug that helped me back to a near normal sleep pattern, but again found I couldn't give it up completely. I was really frustrated and angry with my body for not being able to control my need for medications by sheer brain-power.

I'm also an Insulin dependent diabetic and I know I will probably be taking Insulin for the rest of my life. I can accept that. When I connected the fact that I had both a physical illness, where I could not quit taking medicine without shortly dying, to the fact I had a mental illness that required me to take the psychotropic drugs, I actually got to feeling better. I accepted what my reality was.

One of the reasons some people get down through the winter months is that they have what's called Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's cause is a lack of sun which leads to a shortage of vitamin D. It usually goes away within about 2-3 days of better weather and getting out into the sun and your production of Vitamin D goes up. Setting under about 200 watts of bright light for 30-45 minutes a day also helps this disorder.

I tried taking supplemental vitamin D, but it didn't work for me like it does for some people.

Living with Depression can get pretty sucky. If your doctor puts you on meds and they don't seem to be working, maybe it's time for you to see a specialist, a psychiatrist, who is much more informed about psychotropic medications then your G.P.

If anyone who reads this is at all hesitant about how to get help, you can Sparkmail me at any time. Report
What Electralyte said. I feel the same way. Can't wait til life is back to normal.
Martha Report
I'm not depressed, but just extremely annoyed. I hate the commercials, the music, the commercials set to Christmas music, the pressure to buy, buy, buy.
Every year I just can't wait for it to be over with!! It starts before Halloween and goes on...and on...and on.... Report
Winter brings sme depression with it. Taking more vitiamn D has helped. Today I felt some real joy when FED EX delivered the snow blower I bought for my son for Christmas! It was everything I hoped and I felt so much joy wrapping it for him! I am now getting excited for Christmas. Perhaps the Vit D extra doses are kicking in? Report
I deal with depression mostly in the winter, but usually all year long. I take my prescribed medication. I use a light box daily. I exercise 5 or more days a week. I see my therapist regularly. And when I start to feel "overbooked" during holiday season, I actively practice saying, "No, thank you." I'm not perfect, and still have many days when I feel down and overwhelmed, but I try to give myself credit for all that I DO manage to do for myself, to take care of myself. Report
I just have to keep moving. If I sit down, the blues sink me. My warning signal that I need to move faster is when I get fidgety to eat eat eat... and I'm not hungry in the least. Report
I have experienced the Xmas depression. Or I might say Holiday depression. Lack of being with family was one years emotional depression. On a few other occasions it was money worries. That is all behind me now, but I know how others can suffer.
I definitely hope if you are suffering seek medical help with your doctor or at a clinic. There is also group therapy .
My wish for everyone is a happy stress free holiday.
I need to take my own advice , for yesterday I felt like I was on a treadmill and couldn't get off. i was doing so much and there seems to be so much expected of me. I didn't want to let anyone down. I had to step back, meditate for a while and calm down. I am feeling more calm and like my positive happy self.
My let down could be after the holidays. All the hustle and bustle is over and then what? Will have to start a new project, need to keep busy.
So I hope everyone has a Happy Holiday. Report
I can totally relate....so many people are struggling and this time of year it is hard because everyone pretends to be so happy about the Holiday when many are simply NOT! Report
I agree, last night I felt guilty because I felt I was really letting my father down. I was not hungry in the slightest, I had recently ate a very filling meal. But as soon as I got off the phone with him I heard my mind say, :I need to find something to snack on, maybe some chocolate or. " and with that I almost moved towards the kitchen. That was a pivotal moment, the moment you realize you are a emotional eater, it was undeniable but unlike in the past, for the first time I noticed it and didn't say, oh' well I'm gunna eat anyways, this time I heard it, saw it for what it was and said no, no i'm not gunna eat for that reason, this time I'm going to make a healthy choice and not consume, instead I'm going to go do my workout, do my best and forget the rest. Report
This describes me every Christmas. I lost both of my parents, one in 2002 and the other in 2009, both during the month of November. Since they have passed, I just don't enjoy the holidays as much anymore. On top of that, I am a divorced mother of three, whose ex has decided not to be in his childrens' lives. So, all the holiday responsibilities (financial, emotional, etc) rest on my shoulders. Thanks, for the article, it helps to know that I am not alone and to help others so I don't get bogged down in my own little pity party. Report
I had depression when I began peri-menopause at about 44, so the doctor put me on Prozac which I took for 14 years & it just made me feel "normal" and not like I was trying to walk through a field full of mud. I certainly recommend it to anyone who needs it, to not have a concern about it. I just didn't tell people I was taking it so I didn't get any criticism. The chemical changes I was dealing with was not something I could "talk myself out of." Report
I'm not really doing Christmas this year. I'm just not in the mood. LOL Report
I'd like to read an article about emotional non-eating because that's me. I won't eat or don't want to eat and will just eat enough to keep me going. Report
Its actually pretty interested because right before Thanksgiving, I was feeling so down because of the reasons listed above. Believe it or not getting back into working out did help a little but now I find myself stressed about money and gifts. It takes time to realize that buying gifts isnt always going to make things better. I would much spend Christmas with my family and NO gifts than with a million gifts and no family! I know everyone handles stress and worries differently but for me, staying positive was all it took. There are days I still feel down but I keep my head up and away from negative things! Report
This describes how I feel every Christmas. I am blessed to have a loving husband, daughter and pets, a roof over my head, a good job, a car, great extended family...but yet I get so down at this time of the year. This blog describes exactly what I feel about the holidays:
stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints. If it were simply getting together to share a meal, I'd be fine with that, but all the over spending on people who don't need stuff gets me down. I throw myself into volunteering more so that the rest of the year to keep it in perspective. Report