Blue Christmas

The World Health Organization reports indicates that depression can be brought on by the change of season. It has been postulated that decrease sunlight may be one cause for seasonal depression, sometimes called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). These seasonal patterns are also present in those with bi-polar disorder. More manic episodes occur in the summer during the days of longer daylight.

The Mayo Clinic and other health organizations also report depression during the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Years Day) that has links to the stresses of the holiday. Expectations, financial pressure, and lack of rest are all contributors of the “holiday blues.”

If you have a loved with a serious mental illness, you probably deal with these stresses throughout the year. Trying to put on a happy face for an old-fashioned family holiday can add to your difficulties. You find yourself sad and angry during a time that we’re told is suppose to happy and fun for all.

Helping our loved ones cope with the holidays is one way to relieve the stress that can lead to holiday depression.  Self-care is important any time of the year. During the stressful holidays, it is especially important. You need to pamper yourself a little more.

Plan time for yourself. Put it on the calendar in ink, so you’re not tempted to erase it for yet another holiday event. It can be as simple as 30 minutes to walk through the park, go to a coffee shop with a good book, or have lunch with a friend.

Maintain your normal schedule. I know that is easier said than done. Do you normally go to church on Sunday then have lunch with your spouse? Put a big X on Sundays on your calendar. Don’t change that routine without consulting your spouse.  If your usual bedtime is 10 p.m., don’t be afraid to leave the party early. Let the hosts know how much you appreciated and enjoyed their event, but you need your rest to continue enjoying the holidays.

Go ahead and indulge . . . a little. While you want to maintain a healthy diet during the holidays, don’t let indulgences of the holidays cause you further stress. Have a piece of Aunt Rose’s mince-meat pie with whipped cream. It will delight her and make you feel better.

Remember the reason. Christmas is not about parties, presents, or pie. The word “Christmas” has its origins in Christ mass, meaning a celebration and worship of Christ. Remember also, the word “holiday” is taken from holy day, a day set aside for worship. When you put that together you have a day set aside to worship and celebrate Christ.

It may take a little extra thought, and go against what we’ve been taught about the holiday season, but taking care of yourself will help you enjoy this time of year. And you will be better able to help your loved one during the stressful times.

Other resources:

Mental Health America: Holiday Depression and Stress

WebMD: Coping with Depression During the Holidays

Related blog post:

Holiday Resources

Anosognosia – Not Home for the Holidays

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