Holiday Depression

Dec 10, 2015 by

Tom Watkins – With Thanksgiving leftovers fading and the shopping chaos of Black Friday behind us, Americans are gearing up for the holiday season.

Oh, Joy!

Togetherness and generosity traditionally surround this holiday time of year with a glow that many anticipate for months. But for some, this glow can be shadowed by holiday stress, apathy, or sadness.

Rather than be a time for celebration, the holidays may seem lusterless or downright dreadful to some.

If you’d rather hide away than gather in cheer, seasonal depression may be to blame.

Seasonal depression can arise for many reasons. The holidays can be a stressful time with the pressure to give gifts you can’t afford and family demands that only add to the stress of daily life and work. Add to that the long, dark, wintry days in Michigan and the combination of stress and diminished sunlight can impact mental health.


During the time when we are encouraged to have “happy holidays”, all this can sting, rather than uplift our lives.

Situational Depression and SAD

These symptoms have a name, are well known, and not uncommon. “The holidays are one of the most common periods for depression, even among those who don’t experience it at any other point in the year,” says Dr. Carmen McIntyre, Chief Medical Officer at Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.

“Some people also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “SAD,” during this time, which extends throughout the whole winter season and recurs each year for these individuals.”

If you think you may be struggling with symptoms of holiday depression or SAD, there are steps you can take to improve your well-being over the holidays.

For one, know that you aren’t alone. Although the holidays are generally revered as a time of “good cheer,” a large number of people feel lonely and stressed during the winter months. Reaching out to people can help build a support system that shields you from stress.

Similarly, it is important to be realistic about what to expect from yourself over the holidays. Many compare their circumstances to the perfect images created by the media, TV commercials and holiday movies. Be mindful of how often you compare your finances, family, or partner to those who are unrealistically portrayed by the media.

Holidays Past

Holidays often remind people of the way things were in the past, turning holidays into a time of grief.

There is no deadline on grief, but establishing new traditions, such as volunteering or baking cookies for the homeless shelter, can provide a new perspective and something new to look forward to each year.

If at any point during holiday celebrations, it all becomes too much, give yourself permission to stop and do something for yourself. Although the holidays are about generosity, your own needs do not become any less important this time of year.

Stigma and Keeping an Eye On Others


Finally, do not let stigma prevent you from reaching out to a professional therapist if the holidays blues become overbearing.

If you experience extreme mood changes, such as lethargy, loss of interest, or isolation, it may be time to reach out. “Many people experiencing depression do not reach out because our culture stigmatizes help-seeking, but without help, these symptoms tend to worsen,” according to Dr. McIntyre.

If you notice that one of your friends or relatives is not acting their usual self, take the time to reach out to them. Let them know that you are there for them, and give them a space to express their feelings.

Spending time with someone, even quietly, can help buffer the loneliness many experience this time of year. The best gift may be, sending the message of, “I’m here for you.”


If you need help contact your local public mental health agency. If you are severely depressed or have suicidal thoughts call 911 immediately. The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority crisis line is available 24/7/365 at 800-241-4949.


Watch: Opening Minds and Ending Stigma to learn more about mental illness and where to turn for help:

Source: Holiday Depression

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