‘Tis the season to be merry, joyful and giving while celebrating any of the various holidays. The winter season brings a time of good cheer and optimistic hopes. Families come together to enjoy each other’s company, holiday decorations keep the night sky lit and carolers fill the outdoors with music. As the song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” While approaching the New Year, it’s also very common for people to experience “Holiday blues.” This unhappy mood can affect men, women, young and elderly people, particularly college students, and often mimics clinical depression. According to the University of North Dakota’s family newsletter, as the year comes to an end, many people often reflect on past failures and anxiety about an uncertain future.
Between December and January students experience and suffer from final exams pressure, extra-curricular time strains and not to mention, financial worries. It’s with good reason since according to the UND newsletter, the average college student graduates with roughly $10,000 in credit card debt.
The holidays can put pressure on these money problems when it’s time for holiday shopping. The overwhelming commercials, ads and store sales can bombard students to buy more than usual or too expensive holiday gifts.
“You are pressured to buy all this stuff and you can’t really afford it,” a UND student anonymously quoted in the newsletter.
Financial constraints, while a major factor, is among many that contribute to the holiday blues. According to www.safeusa.org, if people are experiencing increased stress or fatigue or a change in their daily routine or diet, they can also be susceptible to this common disorder. Many also experience this because of setting unrealistic expectations of the holiday season, the inability to be with one’s family, or recalling memories of past and happier holiday celebrations.
Unfortunately, it’s the part about family coming together that can put some people in a seasonal depression. For many people, the first holiday season after losing a loved one can be one of the most difficult. It’s the persistent reminder that there’s someone missing and often resurfaces unresolved grief.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it’s important to allow yourself to feel sad, lonely or melancholy when experiencing grief and holiday blues. It’s also just as important to spend time with people that care about you and to ask them for help when experiencing these moods. The UM Medical Center also suggests trying to let go of the past and attempting to create new or different ways of celebrating the holidays.
“There is no universal solution, since what is depressing or stressful for one person may not be for another. And what works for one person, may not work for another,” says Dr. Larry Alan Nadig, a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist.
During the holiday season, if a friend is experiencing reactions like headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating, not eating enough and is having difficulty sleeping, they may be experiencing the holiday blues. Although this can be very serious, it is not to be confused with season affective disorder (SAD) which is a clinically diagnosed mood disorder. SAD can also cause people to experience holiday blues.
To help prevent or diminish these blues, don’t focus on what you don’t have, dwell on the past, or spend money you don’t have. Be aware that the holidays are difficult for people and help yourself or a loved one establish what is realistic and what is not, when it comes to holiday expectations.
“Do not label the holiday season as a time to cure all past problems. The holidays do not prevent sadness or loneliness,” as quoted from www.safeusa.org. “Also, don’t force yourself to express ‘festive feelings!'”
“Do something to reduce the demands,” states Nadig, “the extra demands on our time, attention, energy and finances can be very stressful.”
To help overcome the holiday blues, try doing something good for someone else. For example, volunteering time to help those less fortunate. Besides the stress, this season also brings many opportunities to help those in need.