Halloween through New Year’s Day is the joyous time of year marked by celebrations of togetherness, feasting on meals rich in carbs and fats, and sprinting for decorating, cleaning, cooking, and shopping. For many, attending to the holiday season’s obligations is a time of increased stress that can negate the joys traditionally expected of this festive time of year. The holiday season can present challenges and the potential to exacerbate the stress in our daily lives. These challenges include increasing financial woes, overextending one’s self, maneuvering family relationships, and grieving for loved ones who have passed. Feelings of loneliness and resentment also occur. It is important this time of year to practice thinking and behavior that reinforce healthy overall functioning.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder–SAD–is a rare mood disorder and type of depression that can recur seasonally within the fall and winter months. SAD must show a pattern of seasonal recurrence with the criteria of major depression.
The National Institute of Mental Health (2016) or NAMI presents the following signs and symptoms of major depression:
- Feelings of depression throughout most of the day
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
- Low energy
- Losing interest in activities
- Problematic changes in sleep
- Problematic changes in appetite or weight
- Difficulty in concentrating
In addition to medical attention, vitamin D, and light therapy, NAMI suggests the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as an effective treatment of SAD. CBT can help recognize self-defeating thinking and challenge these thoughts and emotions with more constructive concepts that lead to resiliency.
Reflect- on the challenges that may seem more pronounced during the holidays. But also acknowledge your strengths as an individual. What do you want and deserve from yourself and others? What should be your realistic expectations?
Plan- so that you do not over-extend yourself and lead yourself to undue stress. Limit yourself to what is in your control, as well as place limits onto situations and relationships that compromise you. Make a list of do’s and don’ts to plan out what is realistically manageable. Planning may include budgeting for gifts, limiting alcohol, dieting, preparing meals, and socializing with troublesome family and friends.
Celebrate the lives of loved ones that you have lost. The increase in togetherness during the holidays can, in turn, increase the heartache of loss. For many of us, there is a tendency to avoid or pushback against sharing painful feelings. This is a normal part of the grieving process that does not deserve guilt. The process can assist from those that share your loss. If the individual is ready to express their grief, you can light a candle or say a prayer to honor the dead. Sharing a funny or positive anecdote about that person is also an easy way to help celebrate his or her life.
Take care of yourself. We are better when we healthily prioritize our needs. Spend time with those that give you strength and can benefit from your energy. Set time aside for healthy that help you relax, preferably daily. Exercise helps manage physical and emotional stress.
National Institute of Mental Health (2016). Eating Disorders. Retrieved December 3, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml.
About the author: Carlos Velazquez, LPC
Carlos Velazquez, LPC is an Army veteran that works with those living with depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, domestic violence, familial conflict, childhood behavioral challenges and environmental hardships. Carlos is a firm believer of the individual’s ability for change.