Watch for signs of holiday blues

  • Published
  • By Rebecca Anne Fritz
  • 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Television portrays the holidays as a time filled with love and sharing. But the holidays aren't picture-perfect for everyone.

People all over the world seem to go through holiday depression, now known as the holiday blues, said Capt. Pamela Novy, commander of the 5th Medical Group's behavioral health flight. Holiday blues usually subside after the season, passing with no indication the person had ever experienced any type of depression.

"Holiday blues do seem to be a real phenomenon," Novy said.

Professionals say there may be several different causes for the blues. Factors like added stress, fatigue, over-commercialization, family separation or homesickness may contribute, Novy said. Many people don't make extra time for the tasks added by the holiday season.

"Over managing becomes a problem during the holidays," Novy said. "Having to get gifts, prepare dinners, visit relatives and continue to perform your normal daily activities often leads to higher stress levels. When stress isn't handled properly, it may lead to depression."

People should avoid certain factors that will increase their chances of developing holiday blues. Alcohol, a natural depressant, should be consumed in limited quantities. Holiday treats that are high in sugar and fat should be eaten in moderation. When planning for holiday celebrations, individuals should avoid over-spending or setting unrealistic expectations of themselves or others.

People must learn to prioritize, said Novy. During the holiday season, a person may be faced with having to attend several events. "By making a list and deciding which ones are not necessary, a person can eliminate some of the holiday stress," she said. "Self-care is okay. There's no need to feel guilty for not being able to do everything."

Here are a few other ways to avoid the holiday blues:

Eat right.

Get plenty of rest.

Exercise regularly.

Set realistic goals by organizing your time, making lists, prioritizing and preparing a budget to follow.

"Individuals should also be alert to the fact that the holiday blues don't always occur during the holiday season," she said. "Sometimes they appear after the new year, when a person is faced with charged-up credit cards and broken New Year's resolutions."

Signs of holiday blues may include headaches, changes in sleep patterns, weight loss or gain, and increased anger or anxiety. An inability to concentrate or decreased interest in pleasurable activities might also indicate a person is suffering from depression, Novy said.

People suffering from one or more of these symptoms should consider getting a professional consultation. Holiday blues may be a short-term condition, but people should not to confuse it with another condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

According to the National Mental Health Association, SAD results from fewer hours of sunlight as the days grow shorter during the winter months. Because of the shortened days, people may suffer from a shortage pf vitamin D, resulting in symptoms of depression. SAD often subsides as daylight hours increase.

Treatments are available for both the holiday blues and SAD. Base life-skills support centers offer help to active-duty members. Spouses or family members may seek consultation through a Tricare-approved mental health provider. Information is also available online through the National Mental Health Association at (Courtesy of Air Combat Command News Service)