According to the National Mental Health Association, the holidays and post-holidays may be a time of depression for some individuals. The reasons for this increased unhappiness can stem from limited financial resources and family tensions to fatigue and unrealistic expectations.
Women may be particularly vulnerable to sadness this season. A survey by the National Women�s Health Resource Center found that two-thirds of women report depression during the holidays.
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�The pressure of creating the perfect holiday can leave many people feeling drained and anxious,� reports William Annitto, MD, Psychiatrist with the Behavioral Health Network at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC). �Women have been found to have rates of serious depression that are twice those of men, and the holidays may exacerbate the stress of those prone to depression. Lack of sleep, overspending, and overloaded schedules can all contribute to stress and depressed mood.�
Some individuals report good spirits during the holidays, but feel a sense of �let down� afterward, says Dr. Annitto. One study from Zurich, Switzerland, found that suicide rates rise after New Year�s Eve � largely among men. Those who experience mental illness tend to be more vulnerable to depression during and after holidays.
�People have high expectations during the holiday season that family and friends will come together and that they will find happiness,� says Joanne Reilly, Director of the Behavioral Health Network at NBIMC. �If those expectations are not realized, it can cause upset and a sense of loss. Also, the withdrawal of social support when a holiday ends and relatives leave can also leave some individuals feeling vulnerable.�
Ways to Avoid Holiday and Post-Holiday Unhappiness
The following are suggestions from NBIMC�s Behavioral Health Network for avoiding feelings of stress and unhappiness this holiday season and beyond:
- Maintain strong social contacts all yearlong, not just at holiday time.
- Get physical exercise. Daily exercising sends more oxygen to brain cells and results in improved mood.
- Focus on positive images in your life. Be thankful for small moments of grace within the holiday whirl.
- Get plenty of sleep all year around and especially during the holidays.
- Identify worthwhile things to do beyond wrapping and shopping. Donate your time to others in need.
- Limit overeating and overdrinking. Focus on enjoying events without nervous eating and drinking.
- If you have a history of having upsetting holidays do things differently. Go out to eat instead of cooking. Do not over stress by trying to decorate the perfect house.
- If you cannot afford many presents, let your family know. Discuss an inexpensive family outing as an alternative or gift coupons or a night to play board games. Focus on time together as the gift.
- Seek professional help if you experience lingering depression. Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Behavioral Health services include multiple levels of care along a continuum which includes highly specialized medical care. Contact the Behavioral Health Network at 1-800-300-0628.