Depression in December
Published: Tuesday | December 22, 2009
CHRISTMAS BLUES is a very real phenomenon. Although the holidays are supposed to be a time for cheer and thanksgiving, they are also the time when many people experience feelings of depression and sadness.
The US National Mental Health Association estimates that more than a million Americans suffer from depression during December. Sadly, more people attempt suicide in this month than at any other time of year.
Depression is a mood disorder that may be a 'normal' response to a stressful time and the Christmas blues can be triggered by factors like unrealistic demands and expectations; the pressures of the commercialisation of Christmas; the loss of a loved one; memories of past holidays; shifts in eating or sleeping habits; or shifts in your daily schedule.
In contrast, clinical depression can also occur in December with symptoms that resemble holiday depression but they usually are more severe and last longer than a few weeks.
SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
A special problem is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also called winter depression. This is a mental disorder in which people with normal mental health during the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter months, repeatedly, year after year. This is associated with the decreased hours of sunshine at this time. This leads to abnormalities in the production of melatonin by the brain. Although more common in cold countries, it also afflicts people living in tropical climes.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
Persistently sad, anxious, or 'empty' feelings;
Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt or worthlessness;
Fatigue and tiredness even after sleep;
Irritability or restlessness;
Lack of interest in pleasurable activities, including sex;
Poor concentration, memory and decision making;
Sleeping too little or sleeping too much;
Overeating or loss of appetite;
Thoughts of suicide or attempting suicide; and,
Pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that recur even after treatment.
PREVENTING CHRISTMAS BLUES
Avoid loneliness. Spend time with friends and family and get involved in local church or community activities. Find a support system with people who you can share your feelings with. Identifying ways to serve the less fortunate can really elevate your mood.
Eat balanced, nutritious food, avoid sugar, try not to overeat and drink lots of water. The Cellular Nutrition Programme facilitates optimal nutrition. Avoid alcohol as it can make depression worse.
Avoid overspending. Financial stress is a major contributor to the Christmas blues. Develop a budget and spend within your means.
Get a sunbath as often as possible. I recommend half an hour of sunshine each morning. The more sunshine you get the more mood-balancing chemicals your brain produces. While sunbathing, avoid using sun blocks or sunshades as this will minimise its benefits. In northern climates, light therapy (phototherapy) can substitute.
Exercise regularly. Walk, jog, dance or do any physical activity, as this will increase your brain chemistry and improve your mood.
Take anti-depressant supplements. These include the B vitamins, especially B3 and B12, vitamin C, omega 3 fatty acids, melatonin, St John's Wort and SAMe.
Relaxation activities like meditation, breathing exercises and yoga are very useful particularly at the beginning or the end of the day.
A WORD OF WARNING
Clinical depression needs expert medical treatment. Suicide is a terrible tragedy. Anyone who has any thought of suicide or self-harm should have professional help. Any friend or loved one who seems down or depressed should be gently asked about suicidal thoughts. The depressed person is often relieved to share these feelings if directly questioned. Let's prevent and if needed confront this problem of depression in December.
My love and blessings to all readers for this Christmas season.
You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at email@example.com or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m. The programme streams live on the Internet.