While others are decking the halls, many people find the holidays trigger anxiety and depression.
“For many people, the financial stress of gift and event obligations can be too much,” said Sandeep Mendiratta, M.D., chair of psychiatry at Broward Health Imperial Point and vice chair of psychiatry at Broward Health Medical Center. “For other people with minimal family support, the holidays can promote feelings of loneliness and further isolation.”
According to a study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people with an existing mental illness reported that the holidays made their condition worse. Moreover, less natural sunlight during the winter months can also exacerbate these symptoms.
There are things you can do to help reduce the risk of stress and mood problems during the holidays, experts say.
• Go outdoors. Being in nature and in the sunlight is known to reduce depression. Reduced exposure to light and less vitamin D from sunlight have been linked with depression. Be sure to use sunscreen and stay hydrated when outside.
• Get plenty of exercise. If you can't get outdoors, try a gym or walk the halls at work or at a mall. Exercise benefits both mind and body.
• Simplify your life. For example, get dinner delivered and don't feel obliged to go to every holiday get-together put on by family and friends.
It’s also recommended that if family time is stressful or you don't have family to spend time with, make plans with friends or get away for the holidays. Mendiratta suggests that if a friend or relative appears to be depressed to reach out.
“If family and loved ones appear to be isolating themselves and struggling in their work and social obligations, the first step is to be supportive and engage them in various ways,” he said. “If symptoms appear to be markedly more severe than their norm, urge your loved one to seek out help with their primary doctor, a therapist or even a psychiatrist to further intervene. Call 911 if suicidal symptoms appear.”
If you or a loved one are suffering from depression, you can find a doctor to help at BrowardHealth.org/Find-Doctor.