While the holiday season can bring with it Yuletide celebrations and eggnog, it can also bring seasonal depression.
“When you are discussing the holidays, stress is something that a lot of times can bring depression on,” Amber Carlson, counselor at Kearney Counseling Services, said. “You can have financial stressors; if you have a lot of family gatherings, that can be stressful. It can also be good or bad stress depending on what kind of relationships you have. Maybe, if you don’t have family, that can be a depressing time.”
Carlson said holidays can also be hard on those who recently lost someone or who went through a significant life change, which may result in reminiscence around the holidays.
Signs of seasonal depression
Some of the signs experts look for that may indicate a depressed mood include someone losing interest in their normal hobbies or activities, said Sara Catania, director of Inpatient Care of Psychiatric Services at St. Luke’s North Hospital—Smithville, said. “There could be a change in appetite, sleep patterns, concentration issues; or feeling hopeless or helpless or guilty. Sometimes there can be suicidal thoughts, if it has gotten that far.”
Catania added that the lack of daylight hours can also have an impact on levels of depression, which is related to seasonal affective disorder, a mood disorder characterized by depression during the same periods of time each year. SAD, common in the winter, can be treated with light therapy among other things, the care services director said.
If someone recognizes depression symptoms in his- or herself, Catania said the person should contact his or her primary care doctor or, if an individual has a therapist, make an appointment with the specialist.
While reaching out for help may feel difficult, Catania said it is key.
“Definitely talk to someone,” Carlson added. “Self-care is huge.”
If a person recognizes symptoms in someone else, they should ask the person what he or she can do to help, Carlson said.
“Sometimes people just need to be heard without having advice thrown at them. Sometimes people just want to feel like they aren’t being judged,” she said. “Sometimes just asking someone what they need from you can be helpful. Sometimes it can be as simple as ‘I just need someone to go have lunch with today to take my mind off of things.’”
Exercise, including stretching and yoga, is also an effective way to build resilience to depression, both experts said. Other key factors to overcoming symptoms of depression include eating a healthy diet and regular engagement in interests.
Both doctors also recommend calling 911 or heading to the emergency room if symptoms seem extreme such as a situation that create a risk to someone’s health or safety.
Symptoms in youth
Signs of depression in youth can be similar to those in adults. In addition, Carlson said while some children may exhibit more emotional behaviors that are visible to others, some children do not, making it hard to tell if they are struggling. As with adults, she suggests asking children if they need help.
“Just pay attention to those around you,” Carlson said.
Carlson said self-care is important no matter a person’s age.
“Remember to take care of yourself, whatever that looks like for you,” she said. “We recommend you do something for yourself every day. … Everyone has their own thing that is relaxing for them.”