If you feel that your winter slump is actually turning into seasonal depression, here’s how you can find out. Susana Victoria Perez (@susana_vp) has more.
“‘Tis the season to be jolly” — these are lyrics from the 1862 Christmas carol “Deck the Halls.” December is often considered a festive season of happiness, celebration, family and cheer. But beneath the bustle and promise of the holidays, many people struggle.
In the month of December, the days grow shorter with more darkness than light, fall colors becomes barren trees and the frigid temperatures keep people indoors. Many people feel melancholy during this time of year, and it can be severe for those with seasonal affective disorder.
The holiday season can be occasion for emotional pain. For some people, the notions of family togetherness and happiness can be a cruel reminder of a lost loved one or bring up traumatic memories of a dysfunctional or abusive home.
During the Christmas holiday many people are separated or estranged from those they love. Divorce arrangements often mean that a parent won’t be with their children. Some have a family member serving in the armed forces who aren’t able to be home. It’s estimated that 2.7 million minor children have a parent in jail or prison. Others have loved ones who are seriously ill or hospitalized.
Sometimes our greatest regrets and griefs are triggered during this time of year. The holidays can serve as an agonizing reminder of what doesn’t seem right about our lives. Stress, anxiety and depression can be intense.
If you struggle during the holidays, consider the following tips for navigating yourself through it.
Have compassion for yourself
Don’t get hung up on what the holidays are supposed to be like and how you’re supposed to feel. It’s normal to feel sadness and grief when the holidays trigger sad or traumatic memories and emotional pain. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. It’s okay to have your feelings.
Rather than judge yourself or resist and suppress what you feel, let the feelings come and be patient, accepting and compassionate with yourself.
Sometimes when we feel sadness, grief or loneliness, we isolate ourselves. If the holiday season is typically a difficult time for you, consider reaching out and connecting with those who will offer love, understanding, comfort and support.
Something as simple as a phone call or coffee with a caring friend can make a difference. Sometimes our feelings can become debilitating and we can’t pull out of it. There’s no shame in seeking professional help and support if you need it.
Create your own reason for the season
Consider the possibility of creating your own personal meaning for the holiday season. What matters most to you in how you want to approach this time of year? What creative, spiritual, journaling or self-care practice could you incorporate into your life this season? What personal theme, intention or mindset would be meaningful for you?
Our human journey is filled with joys we will never forget, and hurts we wish we could. We laugh, we cry, we celebrate, we grieve. There is both beauty and sorrow in this world. To be human is to feel it all. Give yourself permission to be human this holiday season.
Jim Palmer is an author, spiritual director, founder of the Nashville Humanist Association, and chaplain with the American Humanist Association.
Get connected: Stay up to date with our newsletters
Read or Share this story: https://www.tennessean.com/story/life/2018/12/15/sad-seasonal-affective-disorder-winter-depression/2282881002/