Beat the Holiday Blues This Holiday Season:
Dr. Shihabuddin of Clara Maass Medical Center Offers Coping Tips
While the holiday season may be "the most wonderful time of the year" for most people, it can initiate feelings of heartache, stress and even depression for others. Lina Shihabuddin, MD, Medical Director, Behavioral Health Services Clara Maass Medical Center, offers insight and coping strategies for those facing holiday blues and depression.
Q. What are the most common causes of depression around the holidays?
A. One of the biggest stressors is that people are expected to be with family and if there's family conflict everything may come crashing down. Family members will likely be in the same space which causes even more discord. In extreme cases, we've seen individuals who have experienced stress after seeing a sibling for the first time in 40 years, then having a fight – requiring hospitalization.
The loss of a loved one, like a spouse, family member or friend, and dealing with the "first" holiday without a loved one may be especially difficult as people recognize isolation and recall memories of the past.
Alcohol is another key culprit. As alcohol is more regularly available during the holidays, individuals with substance abuse issues may feel tempted to "self- medicate" and have a drink or two during gatherings. Always have someone watching your back and keeping you in check.
Q. What are the signs that you need to seek professional help?
A. Not sleeping well, not eating or overeating, feeling angry, snapping easily at people are all signs that something is wrong.
Q. What can you do to prevent stress and depression, especially during the holidays?
A. Prepare yourself ahead of time for what could possibly happen and have a plan "B." If you know an estranged relative will be at the holiday gathering and you don't get along, create a plan. If your relative gets on your nerves, walk into the other room or talk to someone else.
The same advice applies to those with alcohol abuse issues – have a plan!
It's also important to be well rested, eat well and exercise. Lean on your friends for support or participate in a formal support group.
Q. What are some things people can do to remember their loved ones and deal with loss?
A. Try to think of family gatherings as positive. Again, have a plan and be prepared. Focus on the times you spent with the loved one rather than focusing on the loss.
Q. How can a professional help someone experiencing the blues or depression?
While it depends on the individual and set of circumstances, talk therapy is extremely helpful for many individuals facing holiday blues and depression. Anxiety medication will help some individuals get through the stress of the holidays while others may need to take a longer-term anti-depression medication.
For more information, contact Barnabas Health Behavioral Health Services at 1-800-300-0628.