Fighting a Case of the Holiday Blues
The holidays can bring something worse than cheer: Depression. By taking the right steps, you can overcome the holiday blues.
By Zephanie Battle, Texas State University
The anxiety from finals is over, and the only thing you have to look forward to is hanging up the stockings with care and leaving cookies for old Saint Nick.
One thing most people don’t think about at this festive time of year is that someone will be sitting at home depressed while their family is happily decorating the Christmas tree. Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety of the holiday season can make anyone feel like a modern day Mr. Scrooge.
Sadness or depression at holiday time, or the “holiday blues,” can be a reaction to the stress and demands of the November and December months. Around this time, students particularly suffer from emotional disorder because of the high expectations of final semester grades. This is not the only reason you might find yourself curled up in bed crying.
You could be worrying about a financial situation, like how you’ll be able to pay for your next semester classes. If you’re very far away from home, you may not be able to visit your family. Your inability to commit to hanging out with your friends like you used to may cause you grief. Don’t have a bae to cuddle with on these cold winter nights? Well, anybody would feel a little down about not be being snatched up this cuffing season.
Though such issues may seem trivial to some, many people catch the worst symptoms associated with the holiday blues.
It is typical to exhibit anti-social behavior when you’re feeling sad, but social isolation takes it to a whole other level. It takes you out of the public scene completely, differing from the temporary response of pure loneliness. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two primary holidays meant to be shared with others, but people experiencing depression will most likely want to be left alone, often refusing to hang out with their friends or family members like they used to. It’s the thought of, “Why are they happier than I am,” and “Well, I don’t want to ruin their fun because I’m upset,” that can drive you in a corner of self-pity. You’ll lose interest in things that used to make you happy, like creating makeup videos or exercising. At this stage, you’re developing a sense of solitary confinement that will only get worse.
Being alone all day eventually leads to you being alone at night. When you’re purposely excusing yourself from the company of others, all you can seem to do is dwell on your ever-growing list of stressful demands and personal issues. As a result, you stay up longer than you want to, sending your mind into a spiral of distressing thoughts that fill you with more grief and sadness. Then comes the overbearing feeling of fatigue, causing your mood to change considerably, from stable to irritable to downright ill-tempered. If not handled with care, insomnia can lead to various instances of physical discomfort for the body.
Headaches and Other Physical Pains
You know how you feel after you wake up from working on a project all night, and you finally decided to get some sleep around five in the morning, then your alarm goes off at seven so you can get ready for your eight a.m. class? You drag yourself out of bed, your body feeling heavier than a sack of russet potatoes, and your head appears to be undergoing some form of physical breakdown. You just don’t feel good. Lack of sleep can lead to major headaches, causing a difficulty in concentration, making decisions and remembering details. Other physical effects of the body can include cramps, digestive problems and stiffness in your joints. When in this state, you’re more likely to succumb to the conflict your body is experiencing than to seek help.
Last but not least, the main symptom that’s usually associated with depression: Negative thinking toward oneself. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness can fill your mind at any time of the day, distracting you from your everyday way of living. Thoughts of self-loathing come into play and, if not treated or recognized, could lead to thoughts of suicide. This is the stage of depression that no one likes to hear about, especially when it concerns someone you love or care for.
When someone reaches this dismal state, it’s imperative that it be treated so any more uninviting thoughts can be given the boot.
Now that you know just how serious the holiday blues can be, you now need to know the ways you can soften the depressive blow with some reds and greens of the joyous season.
If you notice a friend demonstrating any of the symptoms you’ve just read or even find yourself down in the dumps, the first thing you can do is socialize. Commit (but don’t overcommit) yourself to activities with others that will keep your mind off of any unfavorable feelings. Baking cookies with the fam, jamming to Christmas music with your best pals or volunteering to help set up a holiday event on campus can help you retain a positive attitude.
It will also benefit you to get a good amount of sleep. Yes, there are those nights when your procrastination methods have backfired on you, but it’d be best to try and find a way to accomplish the goal of ticking everything off of your to-do list before the last minute.
In the heat of the final months of the year, it seem more like the end than the moments leading up to the beginning. In terms of excessive negative thoughts of suicide, it is always best to seek professional help. The Suicide Prevention Hotline is an easy way to acquire the help you need and provide specific resources for prevention management.
On a happier note, you can breathe a little easier knowing that as easy as it is to get sucked down in the dark, gloomy hole of holiday depression, there is an even simpler way to pick yourself back up and enjoy the festivities as intended.