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woman with holiday depression

Is It the Holiday Blues or Something More Serious?

woman with holiday depression

When to seek help, and when to take matters into your own hands

During the busy holiday season, you may find yourself feeling down. For some, the feeling is fleeting. For others, it’s more intense and seems to last.

So how do you know if you have a simple case of the holiday blues or a more serious medical condition?

“Generally, people with the holiday blues experience low energy and less ‘seasonal cheer’ than they might have felt in the past,” says psychiatrist Dr. Sarah Coker with Roper St. Francis Physician Partners Behavioral Medicine. “Seasonal depression – known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD – is more common in the northern parts of the U.S. and carries much more intense and longer-lasting feelings of sadness and hopelessness.”

If you believe you may suffer from SAD, Dr. Coker recommends you consult your doctor. But the holiday blues, she says, can usually be tackled on your own.

Beat the holiday blues

Any number of things can bring on the holiday blues. For some, hibernation seems like the cure to the financial stressors of holiday giving, family strife or memories of lost loved ones.

But hiding inside is isolating and can make you feel worse, says Dr. Coker. She suggests a four “R” approach to beating the winter blues.

  • Rally your friends. Be intentional about making time to see those you care about — even if you don’t feel up to it. If large social events aren’t your scene, plan for smaller get-togethers.
    “Give yourself something to look forward to,” says Coker. “Use these times to connect and don’t feel ashamed about sharing how you are feeling.”
  • Reach for your gym shoes. Exercise increases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Take a brisk walk outdoors or hit the gym to boost your spirits.
  • Remove the pressure. Social media can be a good connector, but it can also leave you feeling inadequate. Dr. Coker says to consider taking a break from social media during the holiday season.
    “The picture-perfect images we see can leave us feeling like we’re not enough,” says Coker. “And we tend to compare our own lives to the overly happy portrayals we see from others. Try stepping away from the screen and focus on enjoying your own experiences and loved ones.”
  • Rethink your holiday strategy. If money is a stressor, consider giving handmade gifts. Or look for opportunities to volunteer — a free way of giving during the holiday season.
    “It’s okay to simplify things,” says Dr. Coker. “We shouldn’t feel pressured to live beyond our means. Think about what’s most important to you and focus on that.”

If you continue to experience symptoms of depression once the holidays are over, or if your feelings are interfering with your day-to-day life, it’s time to seek help.

To connect with a doctor at Roper St. Francis Healthcare, call (843) 402-CARE (2273).

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