With the holidays upon us, not everyone has a magical time filled with days of happiness and family and friends. In fact, very few of us do. The holidays are busy and stressful, and many times we are forced to interact with family or other people we do not get along with. That creates more stress. Stress can trigger anxiety and depression in all of us. There is also a risk for other seasonal types of depression. All of these risks are even higher when we suffer from a chronic health problem like addiction, which has its own significant set of risks for depression.
The “Holiday Blues” is just a nickname for depression that is brought on by the social stressors of the holidays. Many are debilitated by the overwhelming stimuli of the holidays themselves. Others may react adversely to the cheer and social situations, almost a “Scrooge effect.” Still, others are very lonely despite the festivities swirling all around them. If there is concern about the level of depression from any of these scenarios, it is always important to seek medical help. But the Holiday Blues by definition is a short-term and very minor depression.
Another form of depression that hits at this time of the year is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.) This is a physical response to the days getting shorter, thus there is less light. The environmental changes impact our circadian rhythm and can cause depression that is moderate to severe and lasts for up to six months at a time. For this type of depression, people are often withdrawn and lethargic, they will often crave carbs and sugars and put on weight and oversleep. It is very important to seek medical help with this form of depression because it can become very debilitating.
Then there is clinical depression. This is a severe depression that can be brought on by environmental factors, a genetic predisposition, chemical factors or any combination of factors. It can also be a co-existing, or co-morbid condition along with addiction. The variables for someone in recovery suffering from addiction are much higher than normal, and when the holidays are added in, it can be a recipe for disaster.
Here are a few ways to recognize and get help for depression during the holidays, whether it is for ourselves or someone we love:
1) Be gentle with ourselves. The holidays are stressful for everyone, even people who appear “happy.” We can cut ourselves some slack, cut back on optional obligations, and make our lives a little simpler.
2) Talk to a medical professional. Depression of any kind can cloud our thinking and make it harder for us to see how far we have fallen or how fast we are falling. It is always best to get a medical opinion when it comes to depression. It will be the best gift we receive this year.
Doctors have a lot of different ways of determining where we are when it comes to depression. With our help, they can determine if it’s just the blues, if it’s SAD, or if it is something even more serious. Together, they can determine how best to help our bodies and minds to return to normal functional levels, prevent relapses and help us see another New Year.
3) Find something engaging. For many of us, the holidays are too commercial, or maybe we don’t celebrate because we are not of that faith. Or maybe we don’t have family or friends to spend time with. Or we want to celebrate, but everyone else is busy, and we are alone.
No matter what our views are on the holidays, it is an important time to stay focused on something meaningful to us. We can pick up an old hobby, learn a new one, or set reasonable goals to accomplish a project we have been putting off. Something to engage us and pull us through until our normal drive has returned.
Or if we are really brave, we can always find someone even more lonely than us. For every holiday celebration, there are dozens of people sitting in homes and hospitals, including Veterans hospitals, that could use someone to talk to or even just watch TV or read with. The thing about looking outside ourselves is that we end up benefitting as much or more as someone else.
4) Redefine what the holidays are. Charlie Brown and Linus had different ideas about what the holidays were all about, and we can make our own version, too. Maybe starting this year, we celebrate us? Call our sponsor. Meditate. Go see a doctor. Talk to someone who cares about where we are at. Reach out for help to stay busy. Celebrating ourselves can look completely different from the traditions we know. It’s all up to us. While loneliness is a common symptom, we are never truly alone.
Depression comes in many versions and many forms. What is consistent is that it is significantly more common during the holidays. We know we are at a much higher risk for it due to the social, emotional and physical healing we are doing in recovery. So we can take matters into our own hands. We can get the help we need, including treatment for our addiction. Plan your healthy holidays today.
At Fort Worth Recovery, we understand that recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is a personal and challenging road to travel. We seek to inspire clients to face their challenges, accept their present state, and foster hope for their future. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at 817-381-9741, or visit us online.