How to Beat the Holiday Blues

The holiday season is in full swing, and while it can be a cheerful time for many families, it can also be a lonely time for those fighting depression. While depression can occur at any time of the year, it is often amplified during the holiday season. To help raise awareness about holiday depression, Saint Joseph Berea is offering tips on how to avoid letting the holiday season overwhelm you or a loved one.

“If you or someone you know are suffering from holiday depression or anxiety, you certainly aren’t alone,” said Shelia Cundiff, Director of Clinical Services, Our Lady of Peace, part of KentuckyOne Health. “The holiday season can be a stressful time for those experiencing loneliness, loss of a loved one, or financial pressures or hardships, which can all be amplified this time of year.”

Those suffering from depression may experience feelings of sadness and emptiness that won’t go away, extreme irritability, restlessness, thoughts of suicide and death, insomnia or sleeping too much, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in favorite activities, weight gain or weight loss.

During the holiday season, social isolation can be a major factor of depression. Some people may not have a large group of friends and family with whom to celebrate, or feel disconnected if they are living away from family and friends. It’s important that those suffering from depression as a result of social isolation seek help to talk about these feelings of loneliness, or reach out to others for support.

The holiday season can be an especially difficult time after the loss of a loved one. Support groups can offer emotional support for those looking for someone to talk to. In addition, you can lessen the risk of depression by finding new holiday traditions with family and friends and volunteering time to help others. Focusing on other people or charitable causes can often help alleviate depression.

“Other ways to help lessen the risk for holiday depression include setting realistic goals and expectations during the holidays, sharing responsibilities with loved ones, avoiding excessive drinking and overeating, getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and reaching out to family and friends,” said Cundiff. “Speaking to a therapist can also help you find additional solutions to help overcome your bout with depression.”

The loss of sunshine during winter months can also accelerate a person’s risk for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is caused by the reduced number of daylight hours. SAD can often be treated by spending at least 30 minutes a day outside during winter months. If you are diagnosed with this disorder, you may also be prescribed antidepressants.

If you are experiencing feelings of sadness or loneliness during the holiday season, it’s important to speak to a medical professional to help determine the cause. Depression can be treated with medications, psychotherapy, brain stimulation techniques, lifestyle changes or some combination of these. Contact Our Lady of Peace for an assessment by calling the Assessment and Referral Center at 859.313.3515.

If you find yourself having suicidal thoughts, dial 911 immediately, go to a nearby hospital or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

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