The Holiday Blues
Your social media is filled with posts of people wearing cute holiday scarves, with rosy cheeks, and smiling faces. There is music everywhere that talks about happiness and joy. But when you see this and hear this, inside, you feel nothing. Numb. No emotions. Or maybe just overwhelming sadness that you don’t know what to do with. You know you are supposed to be happy, but that is not even an option right now. At what point do you tell someone? Is there anything you can even do to feel different?
This time of the year is surprisingly not joyful for a lot of people. Perhaps that is why someone thought of the name “holiday blues,” but that name is surprisingly misleading. There are some people who are just a little down, a reaction to the overwhelming sensory experience that is the holiday season. But for many people, “the holiday blues” is not the right name. There are a couple of other names that might be better:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Some people’s bodies respond differently to different things, and when the days get shorter and there is literally less light each day, this can change the circadian rhythm in our bodies. The circadian rhythm is your body’s natural sleep and wake cycle that usually lasts for about 24 hours. When something influences that rhythm, it interrupts your sleep and wake cycle, and that can cause depression. This depression can be moderate to severe and can last for up to six months at a time.
This type of depression makes you feel lethargic and can cause you to oversleep. It also often causes cravings of sugars and carbs, causing you to eat more and put on weight, too. This type of depression causes you to withdraw from everyone, too.
The bad news is that even if you pull through this episode, SAD will repeat itself usually at least annually, with the changes of season. The good news is that this is a kind of depression that has treatments that are relatively easy. A lot of people with SAD benefit from light therapy. This uses a very specific type of lamp that your doctor will prescribe for you, and you sit under it every day while eating breakfast or reading for the prescribed period of time. This is for your doctor to determine, though, and requires medical supervision.
Too many people fall under this category. Depression is not the same for everyone, and it is also not caused by the same factors for everyone, either. Causes can be environmental, such as grief, loss, illness or injury, bullying, disappointment, or so many other things. Depression can be caused by genetics, or by a chemical imbalance in our brains. These are physiological issues that you are born with or develop over time. Sometimes using substances can cause depression, too. Or, you might become depressed because of any combination of these factors. Depression can hit anyone at any time for any reason.
The symptoms are very similar to the depressive symptoms of SAD. Sometimes your sleep cycle can flip, you cannot sleep at night, then you sleep all day. You don’t enjoy things like you used to, even your favorite foods or activities. You might even feel overwhelmed, just the idea of getting up in the morning pushes you over the edge and makes you anxious or want to eat too much or just escape somehow.
Some people are able to cope with mild depression. Maybe with some exercise and counseling, some people survive moderate to severe depression. But it interferes with school and work and family and other relationships. And it also interferes with your own quality of life. You deserve the opportunity to be happy, and depression sucks that away from you.
The real problem with depression is that it can be a precursor to suicidal thoughts or self-harm. For this reason, if you think you are depressed, you should always seek medical help. If you cannot access a family doctor or psychiatrist, tell a counselor at school or someone you trust. And remember that if you are feeling like you might harm yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. It is toll-free, anonymous, and the people who you talk to have been there, they really do understand. It is important, as a friend, too, that you always let someone know if someone tells you they are suicidal. Even if you are sworn to secrecy because life and death matters are not a secret.
Life: The Gift that Keeps on Giving
The best gift that you can give yourself this holiday season is mental health. You don’t have to be happy and rosy and smiley like the Instagram stories of other people. You don’t have to be bright and always cheerful and shout holiday greetings to everyone and be annoying. But you deserve to be able to eat and sleep normally and smile and cry at the appropriate times in the holiday movie.
Most importantly, you deserve to survive this holiday season to see the new year. Don’t wait to figure out if it’s just the “holiday blues” or SAD or clinical depression. Embark Behavioral Health can help you manage depression and more. So give yourself the best gift ever: Life. Reach out for help today.
Embark Behavioral Health can help you learn to manage and prevent future depression. Call 1-855-809-0409 right now. Your life matters.