Column: Tips and resources to cope with seasonal depression and holiday blues
What is touted as ‘the most wonderful time of the year,’ just isn’t for many people. Shorter, darker days, added pressure and commitments, and overextending our financial resources can easily take us down a path of anxiety and depression, or seasonal blues. It’s also the second holiday season we’re experiencing during a pandemic, so feelings of isolation, separation and grief can be heightened.
According to a 2015 study from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people say they are affected by the holiday blues, while 24% of them say they are affected a lot.
Though this time of year opens doors to seeing family and friends, we might find ourselves drained by all the preparation and shopping that surrounds it. While the consideration of others is well and good, always be sure to take time for yourself – especially during the holidays. Ask yourself how you’re feeling, and if you find there’s any sadness surrounding you, consider if it’s seasonal with the winter, or something you should go and see a professional about. Never be ashamed of how you feel, as mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Know that there’s a difference between the holiday blues, which typically go away when the holiday season ends, and more severe depression, which interferes with activities of daily living and lasts more than a few weeks. If the holiday season passes and you’re still feeling depressed or anxious, it’s best to consult with a medical professional.
If you’re unsure how to distinguish between a case of the holiday blues or a more chronic depression, a visit with your primary care provider is the first step. Past history, review of current or ongoing symptoms, lab work or other diagnostic tests will rule out any medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) offers the following tips for those suffering from winter blues:
- Stay active, even if it is doing small things each day.
- Eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep.
- Keep a schedule and try to get fresh air every day.
- Try to find a small pleasure for yourself within each day.
- Avoid using too much alcohol and avoid drugs.
Create a buddy system to have someone you can call when you feel down.
Set boundaries on how you want to spend your time in a way that works for you. Be respectful of others who may want things from you but remember to take care of yourself.
Seek professional help if you need it.
Finally, focus on gratitude, think about the things that are right in your life – large or small – and take stock of the positives. That should be a holiday tradition we all keep.
Here are some helpful resources if you or someone you care about is experiencing mental health or substance use challenges.
For residents in the Downriver community and Wayne County, contact Community Care Services at 313-389-7500 or visit www.comcareserv.org.
The Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network’s trained clinicians are standing by 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help 800-241-4949.
If you or a loved one is concerned about suicide, call 800-273-8255 or visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.
We wish everyone a very happy and healthy holiday season!
Susan Kozak has been a licensed social worker for the past 35 years and currently serves as the executive director of Community Care Services, a position she has held since 2011.