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Got The Holiday Blues?

Saturday, November 01, 2008
It Could Be Something More Serious

The blues have been around since, well, human beings. Everyone experiences an occasional cloudy spell, sometimes for no apparent reason. Those blah days can be even more of a downer during the holidays — the season when good cheer is supposed to be bountiful.

But how do you know when the blues are just a passing phase and when they signal depression?

The Blues
Along with thoughts of peace on earth and good will to all, the holidays often bring a hefty dose of stress and anxiety. If the problem is garden-variety blues, you’re able to function more or less normally and you’ll feel better in a matter of days.

As an antidote, schedule time with the friends and family members you enjoy most.

The American Psychological Association’s advice for coping focuses on honestly assessing your feelings and deciding how you truly want to spend the season.

  • Minimize the time you’re with people who make you feel bad — even if they’re relatives.
  • Set your own rules on how much money to spend. Don’t overspend out of guilt. You can show your affection for people without going into debt.
  • Decide which holiday invitations you would enjoy accepting. Don’t readjust your whole life just to make every party.
  • Don’t be pressured into directing the children’s Christmas play or baking cookies for your social circle. It’s always OK to say no.
  • Don’t get sucked in by the advertising hype that says every family enjoys perfect happiness during the holidays. Focus on seasonal activities or religious observances that are meaningful to you.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Drinking too much or overeating will only make you feel worse.
  • Reach out to the needy. A few hours spent serving lunch at the soup kitchen or packing Thanksgiving baskets for the poor can give your own mood a major boost.
Depression
Unlike the blues, bona fide depression won’t go away on its own and requires expert attention.

Symptoms of depression can include:
  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, worthlessness and helplessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Aches and pains, including headaches and digestive troubles
  • Lack of interest in normal activities and in sex
  • Insomnia, excessive sleeping and difficulty getting up in the morning
If your holiday blues turn out to be something more serious, don’t despair. Depression is highly treatable with medication and therapy. Talk to your doctor about antidepressants and other options that are available.

And take other steps to help yourself. The National Institute of Mental Health recommends:
  • Taking part in mild exercise, such as walking
  • Attending church or temple
  • Going to a movie or a ballgame
  • Participating in activities you’ve enjoyed in the past
Spend time with people who are supportive. Take them up on lunch or dinner invitations, or call just to chat. When others offer to help, let them.

Don’t expect recovery to happen overnight. Depression improves gradually, not suddenly. Be patient with yourself.

Learn More
If you or your employees experience the blues or depression, find possible causes and ways to cope in the free online article “The Blues, The Blahs Or Something Bigger?” It’s available from the NASE Health Resource Center.

The article covers:
  • The primary types of depression
  • The causes of depression
  • Medical therapies for depression
  • How mood disorders affect families
  • Depression in the workplace
  • Resources for information about depression



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