As Christmas draws closer, we're bombarded with the final days of holiday parties, shopping for gifts and preparing for guests.
Commercials promising love in exchange for the latest gadget or jewelry inundate us nearly 24 hours a day. The actors in the ads are always happy and smiling. Nobody ever seems to be disappointed.
The holidays are meant to be a time of joy and happiness. For some people, however, the season can be filled with stress and sadness, according to those in the mental health field.
" 'Holiday blues' is a common phenomenon all over the world," Michelle Riba, professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan said. "The holidays are difficult for a lot of people and the reasons are plentiful."
Riba said "holiday blues" can be attributed to catalysts ranging from financial stress, attending too many parties and binge drinking without enough sleep, to unrealistic expectations and over-commercialization of the holidays.
"We're seeing a lot of people worry about buying material things with scarce resources," Riba said. "The holidays are also a hard time particularly for those who have lost a loved one and are trying to cope."
Riba said children in particular, who remember fun family gatherings and are now adults themselves experiencing arguments and other family conflicts, can easily succumb to depression.
"As a kid, you see the holidays through a different lens and when your older, it might not be the reality you once thought," she said.
For seniors, the holidays can also be a difficult time with feelings of sadness, loneliness and isolation, Riba said.
Some of the reasons seniors may feel sad include being widowed, losing close friends as they age, being separated from family and suffering from ill health, she said. Family members may also feel pressure because they are trying to balance spending time with their families while feeling guilty that they are not spending enough time with their parents.
According to Mental Health America, here are some ways to avoid depression during the holidays:
- Be realistic about what you can and can’t do and don’t put all of the focus on one day of the year, like Christmas.
- Keep reasonable expectations. Don’t try to do everything. Set reasonable goals, pace yourself, prioritize activities by importance and try to organize your time.
- Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some time to help others.
- Try something new. Start a new holiday tradition.
- Don’t get caught up in what happened in the past. Look to the future and don’t compare this holiday season to the “good old days.”
- Enjoy free activities such as looking at holiday lights, window-shopping or enjoying time playing with children.
- Be aware that excessive drinking may only increase feelings of depression.
- Spend time with supportive and caring people.
- Make time for yourself.
- Live in the moment and enjoy the present.
Riba said families should be cautious to ascribe all cases of depression as "holiday blues."
"There is a variation of depression that occurs seasonally and those with severe depression should consider seeking help from a doctor," she said.
If you or someone you know is depressed and needs to talk, call the Common Ground crisis hot line at (800) 231-1127.