Though perceived as a time of joy and celebration, between the countless gatherings, parties and shopping rush, the holidays can feel like a deep dark pit of despair for so many prone to depression and seasonal depression. While one in 10 Americans experience depression at any given time, reports state those who are usually happy start to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment as stress and anxiety builds up during the season.
Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, believes many people would say the holidays are the worst time of the year. "They're just straight up miserable, and that's not only for people with clinical depression," Duckworth said.
One reason doctors point to such a feeling is the constant barrage of images during the holidays. From smiley-faces and togetherness, people unconsciously assume there should be a norm achieved from these caricatures and begin questioning the quality of their own relationships. While it takes a conscious effort on your part, we help decipher the signs of depression so you can find joy and balance this holiday season.
If you’re unusually inattentive, see a decline in productivity or feel you're walking through a fog, you're more than likely depressed. Stemming from a mood disorder, pronounced concentration issues can affect work and relationships as sufferers become forgetful and typically misplace common things.
Occasional restless nights aren't a big deal but if it's persistent, it can be a symptom of depression. Many who suffer tend to struggle falling asleep or staying asleep despite being exhausted. Conversely, there are those who also sleep too much, struggling to wake up each morning and cannot wait to sleep again during the day.
Depression doesn’t always equate to overwhelming sadness. Sufferers exhibit anger, restlessness, and irritability because of feeling helpless and hopeless. Often signaling a more severe level of depression, if tolerance levels are low, temper is short, and you're lashing out, think about what emotion might be driving that behavior in you and talk to a specialist.
Regarded as the most common telltale sign, social withdrawal is when we feel a strong urge to pull away from others. Shying away from any social interactions and beloved activities, this behavior leads to a deeper isolation and is the exact opposite of what we need. Not only can it worsen how we feel, but it amplifies the brain's stress response. Great risks can come from this symptom, so fight hard against it and seek help.
FINDING JOY AND BALANCE
Do Something Different
If the routine is leaving you feeling more "nay" than "yay," then it's time to try something different and think outside the festive box! Go out with family and friends to a movie, skating rink or host a game night.
Despite how difficult it may seem, reach out to others when the going gets tough and you feel lonely. Talk it out and take time to get together with friends and family through the holiday hustle and bustle. If they live far away, keep in touch via phone or video messaging as even hearing their voice can help a great deal when feeling lonesome.
If the holidays already have you feeling stress because of being über busy, try taking time out for someone other than yourself and your immediate family and friends. Volunteer your time at a food bank, toy drive or even soup kitchen. Scientists believe altruistic behavior not only releases endorphins producing the "helper's high," but making a small dent in the lives of people who have so little can be an incredibly humbling and comforting feeling during the season.
Exercising during the holidays? Yeah, right. It might seem impossible with the scheduling and everything you have to do, but the benefits are well worth it. Producing strong anti-anxiety and anti-depression effects, physical activity releases endorphins (happy thoughts!) that help to reduce the perception of pain, while triggering a positive and energizing feeling similar to morphine.
For more information and resources on balancing your mental health or depression for an effective, fulfilling lifestyle, visit NAMI for further details, or call the helpline now at 1-800-950-NAMI.