Handling the holiday blues

RBC | The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and joy, but for some people they are anything but. The “holiday blues” are real and much more common than you may think. Imagine your grandparent, neighbor, friend or coworker silently struggling at home this holiday season. One in five adults in America live with depression or some kind of mental illness in a given year (according to research and data published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness). There are also those who deal with chronic pain, grief, post traumatic stress, and a plethora of other issues. Depression may occur at any time of the year but stress and anxiety in November and December may cause normally contented individuals to experience sadness, loneliness and a lack of fulfillment. There are several reasons why you or someone you know may develop depression during the holidays.

Loneliness and social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of depression, especially during the holidays. These individuals may consider themselves to be introverts or they may have a small social circle. Perhaps they live far from their family, recently went through a divorce, or they have no family at all. One of the best ways to deal with loneliness and social isolation as a bystander or the person experiencing these feelings is to reach out to family and friends. Resist the urge to hunker down and stay at home when you are invited out. Get plenty of rest and exercise, spend time outdoors or volunteer your time. You can also try talking to a therapist who can help you identify why you are experiencing these feelings and help develop coping mechanisms to overcome them.

Grieving during the holidays can cause immense sorrow and pain. As most of us know, grief has no expiration date. For some, the loss of a loved one 20 years ago has the same impact as someone who passed this year. Christmas parties, holiday traditions, festive decorations are meant to bring joy but often are reminders of the loss. Trust that grief is a part of healing. While tempting, pretending that the holidays don’t exist or temporarily numbing the pain with alcohol can only prolong the anguish. Allow yourself to experience the grief of going through the holidays without your loved one. Be mindful of your personal boundaries and not forcing yourself to face every holiday event. Find a way to honor your memories. Whether it is lighting a candle for your lost loved one, continuing an old holiday tradition or beginning a new one. Whatever is a tangible reminder that although your loved one is gone, the love never dies can help.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) with seasonal pattern is a type of recurrent depression that is caused by the seasons changing. Many people with this disorder start to feel depression symptoms in the fall that continue through to the new year and even spring. Hypersomnia or oversleeping, daytime fatigue, overeating, weight gain, lethargy, lack of interest in usual activities, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts are some symptoms that are associated with MDD. This disorder is treated with light therapy, antidepressants, and talk therapy. Some people may require treatment only during the time of the year in which they experience symptoms, or they may need treatment that begins before symptoms are most severe. Others may choose year-round treatment.

Where can you go or who can you talk to if you are experiencing holiday depression or know someone that is?

Feelings of sadness, anxiety, worry, irritability or sleep problems are common for many people. However, when these feelings get very intense, last for a long period of time, and begin to interfere with school, work and relationships, it may be a sign of a mental health problem.

In Rio Blanco County Mind Springs Health is available to help. You can contact the Meeker office at 970-878-5112 or the Rangely Office at 970-675-8411.

Colorado Crisis Services offers four ways to get confidential and immediate help by phone at 1-844-493-8255, over text message (text the word “TALK” to 38255), via an online chat service available on their website coloradocrisisservices.org, or you may walk in at the Grand Junction location at 515 28 3/4 Road. Trained counselors are available to help with relationship problems, depression, bullying, stress, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, family crisis and more.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support for those in crisis 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.

Spark the Change’s pro bono mental health program connects volunteer therapists, counselors and other professionals with low-income Coloradans who are in need of help at 1-844-380-6355. If you qualify, you’ll be matched with a mental health professional.


By ROXIE FROMANG | Special to the Herald Times