Holiday blues or SAD: Either presents challenge

We have been talking a lot about depression this month. Today we will touch on the holiday blues and seasonal affective disorder. A person just doesn’t always realize they are in that place. It can creep up without notice, subtle in taking over.

Kay’s blues came on suddenly as the days of autumn saw shorter hours of daylight. She didn’t make the connection. She hated the idea of winter coming on. Even worse, the stay-at-home mom dreaded the cold and inclement weather that would prevent the children and herself from spending as much time outdoors as they did in the warmer months of the year. Her mood worsened, lasted more than a couple of weeks, well into November.

With the advent of the holidays – the baking and candy making, the family gatherings, the Christmas traditions and all the light and color of the season – her spirits lifted. She loved the excitement of the month of December, decorating her family’s home and retail therapy in preparation for the big day and for New Year’s Eve.

But when the last ornament was packed away and the festive season was done, when there was only cold, snow, ice and gray skies, she felt her spirits sink into an empty, black pit. Where was the hope for the future and the joy of the now?

Many people become depressed at holiday time. Kay’s husband wished they could just skip the holidays altogether. The demands of the season overwhelm some of us. Stressing over the extra expenditures. (You were going to start shopping early this year but somehow that plan got lost in the shuffle, right? Now you have to scramble to complete your shopping on a shoestring.)

Wait. Back up.

First, understand that it’s OK, not at all unusual to feel sad, to experience grief, particularly when you have experienced some major, life-changing experiences. You might tend toward isolating yourself because you feel down, you don’t want to be a “Debbie Downer” so you think you should keep to yourself. The other side of that is how much it actually helps to get together with the people who love and care about you, who enjoy your companionship.

Remind yourself that the only consistent thing in this world is change. Sometimes it’s best to live in the moment, shake off the things you can’t do anything about at the present time, and don’t worry so much about tomorrow. Enjoy the moments with the people you love and care about this holiday season. People, not things, are the most important gifts in your life. Things don’t buy happiness.

“Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer,” advises NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health.) It is linked to major depression and symptoms include feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, low energy, losing interest in things you used to enjoy, feeling sluggish or agitated, trouble sleeping and difficulty concentrating. That’s the short list. There are other symptoms. If you are concerned, talk to your health care provider and get the problem resolved so you can be back on track and enjoying your life. Depression can be treated. There are professionals who can help.

It’s not easy to set aside problems you have with certain people in your life. But sometimes it’s what you need for the moment. Make your plan for the holidays and stick to it. Live, laugh and love. But if the blues set in and last too long, get help.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.