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Symptoms of the Holiday Blues

The holidays are a time when we celebrate our lives being the way we had hoped for, but many people feel sad during the holidays because they don’t see what they had hoped for. Some of the many factors that can contribute to the holiday blues are health, family and finances. Here are the symptoms:

• Feeling down more often than usual for no clear reason — the feelings may be intense and disturbing, especially when those around you seem full of joy and happiness

• Lack of interest in activities that normally bring pleasure such as figuring out creative gifts or shopping for Christmas ornaments

• Feeling sad over the loss of a loved one and the special times spent together

• Comparing yourself to people who seem better off, leaving you feeling “less than”

• A tendency to overeat and drink too much alcohol

• A sense of guilt that you can’t afford the hottest new gifts advertised in the media

It’s important to recognize that holiday depression tends to subside when the holidays are over. If you or your spouse’s symptoms linger on past January, consider contacting your physician or counselor to talk about depression. The symptoms below can help you distinguish between the holiday blues and depression.

Symptoms of Depression

Is depression in your family background? Have you felt the above feelings before? These may indicate that you are experiencing depression, not just the holiday blues. While there is overlap between depression and the holiday blues, there are distinct differences. With depression, people often feel a cluster of symptoms that persist almost every day for two weeks. The symptoms may include several of the following:

• Trouble sleeping — either falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, or waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep

• Loss of appetite or increase of appetite

• Loss of energy and lack of motivation to do things you’re normally interested in

• A pattern of negative thinking and low self-esteem

• A sense of pessimism about the future and sometimes thoughts of death

• Loss of pleasure in things or hobbies that used to bring joy

• Trouble getting started and getting things done

• Feeling sad, overly irritable or struggling with anxiety

Depression is a treatable condition, so if you recognize these symptoms muster up the courage to tell your doctor. Even physicians get depressed and many understand the condition well. Consider reading the books listed at the end of this article.

Beating the Holiday Blues Together

A loved one can have the holiday blues and not quite be aware of it. It can be helpful to point out to your spouse that he or she seems a bit down. Ask if anything has been on his or her mind. This is a good time to practice your best listening skills to see if there are any of the above symptoms.

Here are some things you can do to help your spouse through the holiday blues:

• Be supportive if your loved one needs to rest more because holiday depression can zap energy.

• Encourage your spouse to open up, and listen carefully to understand what he or she is grappling with. Just paraphrase back what you hear and listen for the underlying feelings.

• Suggest fun and easy things to do like taking a walk around the neighborhood to see the holiday decorations.

• Suggest attending a musical event — music almost always makes people feel better. Most churches have beautiful music over the holidays and welcome everyone.

Here are some things you can both do to manage your health, family and finances for a happier holiday.

• If you or your partner is sad about the loss of a family member, consider having a ritual where you each talk about the person and celebrate the good memories. Ceremonies can make all the difference in moving through grief and give the feeling that you are not turning your back on that person. Consider buying or borrowing the book, “How to Survive the Loss of a Love.”

• Get some exercise – nothing beats the blues like physical activity.