During a typical year, many people experience what is called the ‘holiday blues.’ The weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years' can be stressful, and for some, that can lead to extreme sadness. This being 2020, we can’t overlook the elephant in the room, and that is COVID-19, which has plagued us now for nearly a year and has added even more stress to our lives. If you are experiencing the holiday blues, it’s essential to know that you are not alone, as many people do have bouts of sadness during what should be a time of celebration.
Understanding the difference between holiday blues and clinical depression
Recently, the leading analytics and advice firm, Gallup, released its 2020 Global Emotions Report, which studies people's daily experiences around the world. Researchers found that when questioned, 27 percent of Americans said they experienced a lot of sadness the day before. Sadness is not an uncommon emotion as we all suffer from it at one time or another, and it can be more prevalent during the holidays. What’s important is to understand, though, is the difference between the holiday blues and clinical depression.
Common symptoms of having the holiday blues include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping much more or much less than normal
- Withdrawing from friends and family
Whereas depression can include some of the above, but other classic symptoms are:
- Unrelenting sense of anxiety, sadness, or an ‘empty’ mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness
- Frequent crying spells
- Angry outbursts
- Loss of interest in activities that typically bring you joy
Again, this time of year can bring on sadness, especially if this is your first holiday without a loved one who has died, if you’ve lost your job or having financial struggles, or
you are experiencing other stressful situations, like the impact of the ongoing pandemic. What’s important to note, though, if you feel your holiday blues are taking over, reach out to your doctor as you don’t want to ignore your mental health as it’s equally as important as your physical health.
Steps to easing the holiday blues
Unless you are suffering from a more severe form of depression, know the holiday blues will ease up, and you just need to work on getting through the next few weeks. In the meantime, there are things you can do to ease the sadness:
- Get a good night’s sleep as that can go a long way. A lack of sleep can interfere with your ability to deal with everyday stress.
- Make sure you are eating as healthy as you can during the holidays and exercising, as exercising can help reduce the symptoms of depression.
- Speak up and reach out for help if you believe your blues are turning into something more serious. Just talking to a close friend or family member about what’s bothering you can ease your sadness.
- Limit your alcohol intake as alcohol can intensify negative feelings and sadness.
- When it comes to holiday shopping, set a realistic budget, and stick to it, so you don’t add even more stress to your life when the bills come in.
- Though holiday celebrations are mostly virtual this year, don’t overbook your time; saying no to an invitation is OK if you need to focus on something else.
- And lastly, be kind to yourself. It’s been a hectic year that has impacted all of us and added stress and sadness to our lives. You are not alone, and again, that’s important to know.
About Dr. Jimmie Holmes:
Dr. Holmes has been a Family Medicine provider at West Jefferson Medical Center Primary Care since 2009. He attended medical school at Louisiana State University, followed by his Family Medicine residency at Baton Rouge General Hospital. During his residency, he gained extensive hands-on experience in areas of pediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics & gynecology, and emergency medicine. He trained in both inpatient and outpatient medicine and was responsible for teaching third and fourth-year medical students and pharmacy students. In his spare time, he loves playing golf and racquetball and spending time with his family, especially participating in his children's' extracurricular activities.