The holidays are usually a time associated with warmth, giving and spending time with family. Although, for some, the holiday season evokes feelings of loneliness and loss.
Loss of a loved one can especially make the holidays a daunting and sorrowful time. Due to the nostalgic feel that the holidays usually bring, it can be especially hard not to think of memories spent with a loved one.
In addition to loss, Seasonal Depression (SAD) may play a key role in the causes of the holiday blues. Reduced levels of sunlight in the fall and winter disrupt one’s biological clock, causing moodiness and sadness.
Symptoms may include feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day, low energy, loss of interest in activities you recently enjoyed, having trouble sleeping, and changes in appetite or weight.
Less commonly, symptoms may appear in the spring and early summer instead of the fall and winter.
SAD is mostly treated with the use of light therapy, medication and psychotherapy. Although the symptoms only last for a few months out of the year, the symptoms can become serious and those who have recurring suicidal thoughts or risky behavior should seek help.
Another factor that contributes to declining mental health during the holidays is the stress of shopping and planning. With gifts to buy, family members visiting, cooking and decorating to do, it can be easy at times to fall into a “Clark Griswold” mindset: that everything has to be perfect.
According to the Principal Financial Group, 53 percent of people experience financial stress due to holiday spending.
While holiday depression and stress is common and should be understood, it is also important to note that suicide rates are the lowest between Nov., Dec. and Jan. According to the U.S. Center for Health Statistics, the suicide rate in the U.S. is highest between April and August.
The holidays can be a stressful time for many, but being surrounded by the support of friends and family can be a good tool for relaxing and enjoying winter break.