What Are the Holiday Blues?

Holiday Depression and Stress: Get Prevention Tips

What Are the Holiday Blues?

  • Facts
  • Causes & Risk Factors
  • Symptoms & Signs
  • Diagnosis
  • Specialists
  • Treatment
  • Complications
  • Prognosis
  • Prevention Tips
  • Center
  • Comments
  • More

Facts you should know about holiday depression, anxiety, and stress

Image of areas of the body that are affected by stress

  • Many factors, including unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, and excessive commitments can cause stress and anxiety at holiday time.
  • Certain people may feel anxious or depressed around the winter holidays due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as seasonal depression.
  • Headaches, excessive drinking, overeating, and insomnia are some of the possible consequences of poorly managed holiday stress.
  • Those suffering from any type of holiday anxiety, depression, or stress can benefit from increased social support during this time of year. Counseling or support groups can also be beneficial.
  • In addition to being an important step in preventing the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, regular exposure to light that is bright, particularly fluorescent lights, significantly improves depression in people with SAD during the fall and winter.
  • Setting realistic goals and expectations, reaching out to friends, sharing tasks with family members, finding inexpensive ways to enjoy yourself, and helping others are all ways to help beat holiday stress.

The winter holiday season, with celebrations such as Christmas, Hanukkah, and Thanksgiving, for most people is a fun time of the year filled with parties and social gatherings with family and friends. But for many people, it is a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety.

Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension and fear characterized by physical symptoms such as:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of stress

Read more about the causes of anxiety symptoms »

What causes the holiday blues?

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Sadness is a truly personal feeling. What makes one person feel sad may not affect another person. Typical sources of holiday sadness include

  • stress,
  • fatigue,
  • unrealistic expectations,
  • overcommercialization,
  • financial stress,
  • the inability to be with one's family and friends, and
  • in addition to sadness, many people feel holiday anxiety or stress, particularly when they feel unable to cope with the demands upon them.

Is the environment and reduced daylight a factor in wintertime sadness?

Nonhuman animals react to the changing season with changes in mood and behavior. People change behaviors, as well, when there is less sunlight. Most people find they eat and sleep slightly more in wintertime and dis the dark mornings and short days. For some, however, other symptoms are severe enough to disrupt their lives and cause considerable distress.

Sadness or depression at holiday time can be a reaction to the stresses and demands of the season. In other cases, people may feel depressed around the winter holidays due to a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as seasonal depression.

This is a type of depression that tends to occur (and recur) as the days grow shorter in the fall and winter. It is believed that affected people react to the decreasing amounts of sunlight and the colder temperatures as the fall and winter progress, resulting in feelings of depression.

Although this disorder usually occurs in the fall and winter, there are those who suffer from this condition during the summer instead of, or in addition to, during the fall or winter.

The incidence of seasonal affective disorder increases in people who are living farther away from the equator.

Learn to Spot Depression: Symptoms, Warning Signs, Medication See Slideshow

What are risk factors for holiday depression, anxiety, and stress?

Risk factors for depression, anxiety, and stress during the holidays include having a mood disorder or experiencing depression at other times during the year and a lack of adequate social support systems. Other risk factors can include recent trauma, life changes, excessive alcohol intake, or concurrent illness.

Having financial troubles may increase one's susceptibility to anxiety or stress during the holidays. Stressful family situations and illness in the family are also predisposing factors.

Essentially, any factor that can cause depression, stress, or anxiety in an individual can worsen these conditions at holiday time.

What are symptoms and signs of holiday depression, anxiety, and stress?

Balancing the demands of shopping, parties, family obligations, and house guests may contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed and increased tension. People who do not view themselves as depressed may develop stress responses and may experience a number of physical and emotional symptoms including

  • headaches,
  • excessive drinking,
  • overeating,
  • insomnia.

Others may experience post-holiday sadness after New Year's/Jan. 1. This can result from built-up expectations and disappointments from the previous year, coupled with stress and fatigue.

In the case of seasonal affective disorder or a true depressive disorder, symptoms may persist beyond the holidays or may be more severe.

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include tiredness, fatigue, depression, crying spells and mood swings, irritability, trouble concentrating, body aches, loss of sex drive, insomnia, decreased activity level, and overeating (especially of carbohydrates) with associated weight gain.

How do health care professionals diagnose holiday anxiety, stress, and depression?

A simple history and physical exam may be all that is needed to diagnose a case of the holiday blues.

Your health care professional may perform lab tests or other tests to rule out any medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms.

wise, a full history of your symptoms is ly to provide clues that can help distinguish a mild case of the holiday blues from SAD or a more serious and chronic depressive disorder.

What kinds of specialists treat holiday depression, anxiety, and stress?

Anxiety, depression, and stress can be treated by a variety of medical and mental health professionals. Medical doctors, including family medicine physicians and internists, treat holiday depression.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have special training in treating mental and emotional conditions. There are many other types of mental health professionals who may treat these conditions.

These include psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors, marital and family therapists, nurse psychotherapists, psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioners, and others.

What is the treatment for holiday depression, anxiety, and stress?

Those suffering from any type of holiday depression or stress may benefit from increased social support during this time of year.

For uncomplicated holiday blues, improvement may be found by finding ways to reduce the stresses associated with the holiday, either by limiting commitments and outside activities, making arrangements to share family responsibilities such as gift shopping and meal preparation, agreeing upon financial limits for purchases, or taking extra time to rest and rejuvenate.

Counseling or support groups are another way to relieve some of the burdens of holiday stress or sadness. Knowing that others feel the same way and sharing your thoughts and experiences can help you manage your troubling feelings. Support groups also provide a further layer of social support during this vulnerable time period.

In addition to being an important step in preventing the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, regular exposure to light that is bright, particularly fluorescent lights, significantly improves depression in people with SAD during the fall and winter.

Phototherapy is commercially available in the form of light boxes, which are used for approximately 30 minutes daily. The light required must be of sufficient brightness, approximately 25 times as bright as a normal living room light.

The light treatment is used daily in the morning and evening for best results.

Visiting other areas of the world that are characterized by more bright light (such as the Caribbean) can also improve the symptoms of SAD.

Antidepressant medications, particularly serotonin selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications, can be an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder. Examples of SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa).

Depression is a(n) __________ . See Answer

What are possible complications from holiday depression, anxiety, and stress?

Complications of holiday depression can include worsening of the condition, leading to withdrawal from activities of daily living. As with all cases of depression, suicide or self-harm is a possible complication when severe.

What is the prognosis for holiday depression, anxiety, and stress?

Fortunately, holiday depression and stress can be well-managed by implementing the tips listed above as well as by seeking out social support. Counseling and support groups can be of benefit if the symptoms are too much to bear alone. Seasonal affective disorder generally responds well to bright light therapy (phototherapy). For some, medications may effectively relieve symptoms.

Is it possible to prevent holiday anxiety, stress, and depression?

The following tips can help prevent stress, anxiety, and mild depression associated with the holiday season:

  • Make realistic expectations for the holiday season.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
  • Make a list and prioritize the important activities. This can help make holiday tasks more manageable.
  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
  • Do not put all your energy into just one day (for example, Thanksgiving Day, New Year's Eve). The holiday cheer can be spread from one holiday event to the next.
  • Live «in the moment» and enjoy the present.
  • Look to the future with optimism.
  • Don't set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the «good old days» of the past.
  • If you are lonely, try volunteering some of your time to help others.
  • Find holiday activities that are free, such as looking at holiday decorations, going window shopping without buying, and watching the winter weather, whether it's a snowflake or a raindrop.
  • Limit your consumption of alcohol, since excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
  • Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people.
  • Reach out and make new friends.
  • Make time to contact a long lost friend or relative and spread some holiday cheer.
  • Make time for yourself!
  • Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks.
  • Keep track of your holiday spending. Overspending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays are over. Extra bills with little budget to pay them can lead to further stress and depression.

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Medically Reviewed on 5/13/2021


Golden, R.N., B.N. Gaynes, R.D. Ekstrom, et al. «The Efficacy of Light Therapy in the Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Review and Meta-analysis of the Evidence.» Am J Psychiatry 162 (2005): 656-662.

Источник: https://www.medicinenet.com/holiday_depression_and_stress/article.htm

Understanding Post-Holiday Depression and Blues Post-Holiday Depression: Causes and How To Snap It

What Are the Holiday Blues?

It’s the first full week of January, which means it’s back to reality and business as usual. For some, it’s a major relief. Even with all its good tidings and cheer, it’s a financially, physically, and emotionally demanding time of year.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people report being affected by holiday depression, and it’s most often triggered by financial, emotional, and physical stress of the season.

But for others, coming down from the high after the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ (and the inevitable return to work) can bring on a b the post-holiday blues too.

What Are Post-Holiday Blues?

Also known as post-vacation syndrome, stress, or depression, this slump can hit hard after a period of intense emotion and stress.

Post-holiday blues share many of the same characteristic symptoms of an anxiety or mood disorder: insomnia, low-energy, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and anxiousness. But un clinical depression, the distress is short-lived rather than long-term.

Though much greater attention is often given to depression that occurs during the holidays, the condition isn’t all that uncommon. So, what’s responsible for this glaring lack of post-holiday glow?

What Causes Post-Holiday Blues?

There’s relatively little research on the subject, but consensus among experts is that the adrenaline comedown is the main culprit. Princeton, NJ-based clinical psychologist Dr.

Eileen Kennedy-Moore suggests that the abrupt withdrawal of stress hormones after a major event, be it a wedding, an important deadline, or the holidays, can have a profound impact on our biological and psychological well-being.

But that’s only one part of the equation.

The contrast effect, a form of cognitive bias where perception of differences is enhanced or diminished as a result of exposure to something with similar characteristics, but different key qualities, is also at play.

It’s essentially the brain’s way of trying to restore order while adjusting between markedly different experiences. And, half of the month of December is basically one big departure from your normal routine.

Why Do We Feel Depressed After the Holidays?

Unless you have a three-week vacation in August or some other big diversion during the year, the holidays may be the only time regular life is interrupted. Even if your holidays weren’t so merry and bright, the brain exaggerates the realities of day-to-day life, making the return to the mundane seem disproportionately more anxiety-inducing and depressing than it actually is.

Our Brain is Tricking Us

According to Dr. Melissa Weinberg, a research consultant and psychologist specializing in well-being and performance psychology, it’s a sign of healthy psychological functioning.

“It’s just one of a series of illusions our brain fools us into believing, in the same way we think bad things are more ly to happen to others than they are to us.

Somewhat ironically, the capacity to fool ourselves every single day is an indication of good mental and psychological functioning,” Weinberg explains in The New Daily.

“So, whether we did enjoy our holiday, and whether we’d rather be on vacation than back at work, our brain is wired to make us believe that we did, or that we would.

In doing so, we pay the emotional cost for a well-enjoyed break, and we experience a comedown toward our baseline of well-being.

” In other words, you pay the same emotional toll for a crappy vacation as you do for an amazing one.

We’re Emotionally Exhausted

The considerable weight of navigating difficult situations and relationships and keeping your cool during the holiday events is another possible factor in post-holiday depression.

According to psychiatrist and author of “Thriving as an Empath,’ Dr. Judith Orloff, putting up a false front and feigning happiness can be incredibly draining.” This idea is shared by psychotherapist Dr. Richard O’Connor, who has a theory that we “arm” ourselves during the holiday period as a coping mechanism to deal with stress and difficult emotions and situations

Diet Plays A Role Too

The sugar and alcohol-fueled diets many of us thrive (or rather survive) on during the holiday period could also be a culprit. Alcohol is a widely recognized depressant and research has also linked junk food to depression. Unsurprisingly, after a near-month long period of overindulgence, we might not be feeling our best.

How Long Does Post-Holiday Depression Last?

This is going to be different for everyone. But if after awhile you still aren’t looking forward to upcoming events, or you continue to remember the holidays with sadness rather than fondness, it’s time to talk to a mental health professional.

Post-Holiday Depression Statistics

  • According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse and 40% “somewhat” worse.

  • The most difficult months for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression, in the United States tend to be January and February, according to the American Psychiatric Association. This can compound negative post-holiday feelings in the 5% of adults in the U.S. who experience SAD.

  • While it is a myth that suicides increase around the holidays, a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Emergency Medicine found that New Year’s Day was one of the times associated with the highest number of poison ingestions with suicidal intent.

How To Get Over Post-Holiday Blues

Working yourself a post-holiday funk requires putting some extra emphasis on the basics of physical and mental well-being and adjusting expectations:

Take care of yourself.

Quality sleep, regular exercise, and a nutrient-dense diet—these healthy lifestyle cornerstones are recommended by experts to boost mood and manage depression symptoms.

Between late-night festivities, sugary snacks and long to-do lists, these practices often fall to the wayside during the holiday season.

Re-establishing them as a regular and non-negotiable fixture in your routine is essential for getting back on track if you’re struggling emotionally.

Schedule time for fun.

Social interaction is a critical component of enhanced well-being. Now that the holiday parties have petered out, an empty calendar might feel a bit depressing.

Filling up your planner with activities you enjoy will give you something to look forward to and help keep contrast effect at bay. It’s easy to withdraw when you’re feeling down.

Reaching out to and getting face time in with friends and other people you care about—even when you don’t feel it—can also provide a much-needed boost.

Be patient and go easy on yourself.

Post-holiday blues won’t stick around forever. In the meantime, cut yourself some slack. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling the way you do and take the time you need to find your footing. If symptoms do persist, consider consulting a specialist.

The contrast effect: The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology (1957). “Assimilation and contrast effects in reactions to communication and attitude change;” PLoS ONE (2012). “Can Contrast Effects Regulate Emotions? A Follow-Up Study of Vital Loss Decisions.”

Sugar and depression: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2015). “High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative.”

Emotional load of feigning happiness: Orloff, J. (2019). Thriving as An Empath.

Social relationships and mental health: Journal of Health and Social Behavior (2010) “Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint For Health Policy.”

Источник: https://www.psycom.net/depression/post-holiday-depression

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