The holidays are supposed to be a time of happiness, good cheer, joy, fellowship with loved
ones, spiritual rejuvenation and optimistic hopes for the coming new year. The period of time
between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is a time in American culture for much celebration.
People come together to eat, sing, share gifts, worship, and enjoy each others’ presence. But for
many individuals the holidays are a period of time that is stressful at the least and for others,
One possible cause for Holiday Depression is the fact that the Thanksgiving to New Year’s
holiday season occurs during the time of year when there are the fewest number of hours of
daylight. Research has shown that ten percent of our population is significantly affected by
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition marked by
depressive symptoms during times the individual is not exposed to direct sun light.
Another causative factor is that for most individuals, all of the activities of the holidays must be
piled on top of all of their other responsibilities that, for most people, include both work and
family. Consequently, many individuals feel a significant time crunch.
Only about twenty-five percent of all individuals are living within what would be considered a
traditional family at the present time. Death, separation, divorce, remarriage, and job-related
separations cause many individuals to have conflicting feelings about the traditional holidayrelated
Lastly, the holidays bring about special costs that often increase debt. By focusing on the ritual
of purchasing expensive gifts for loved ones rather than the spiritual meaning of the season,
many individuals find themselves dreading the holidays.
If you feel that you are affected by the lack of sunlight getting as much exposure to early
morning sunlight might be helpful. There are also phototherapy lights that can be purchased to
provide a sunlight effect. Keeping expectations for the holiday season manageable can also
reduce stress and depression. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Be realistic about what you
can and can not accomplish and organize your time.
Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely. There is room
for these feelings to be present. Acknowledging that those feelings would be present even if it
weren’t the holiday season helps put the feelings into perspective.
By setting a budget and sticking to it you reduce the risk of overspending and consequent
Stress and depression during the holidays can be reduced by doing something for
someone else. The holidays are an excellent time to teach children the value of giving to others
through volunteer activities or gift giving to less fortunate individuals.
Unfortunately, the holidays bring on an increase in domestic violence. Individuals prone to
extreme stress and anger should be aware of the stressors associated with the holidays and
develop a plan for dealing with holiday stress and depression.
Many seniors are affected by losses. These losses can take on greater significance during the
holidays. People are reminded that loved ones are no longer there to share the holidays with
them. Grown children are busy with their own social obligations, and may not realize that their
parents or grandparents look forward to a visit or a phone call.
Checkup 2005: Assessing Our Community’s Health found that the percentage of Effingham
County residents that self-reported having a diagnosed depression and the prevalence of chronic
depression reported in the county were below the national average. However, the percentage of
individuals who sought professional help with a mental or emotional problem was below the
Healthy People 2010 objective. If during the holidays or any other time you experience feelings
of sadness that do not go away with time, a change in sleeping pattern, a weight change, loss of
pleasure and interest in usual activities, difficulty with thinking or concentration and or thoughts
of suicide, you are experiencing classic symptoms of depression. There is no shame in seeking
help for depression or any other emotional problem. Heartland Human Services, clergy, or
private practice counselors are available in the Effingham area and are listed in the phone book.
SOURCE:- Linda Cummins, MS.Ed., LPN, LCPC
Heartland Human Services