The thought of going on holiday, far away from every work-related activity, should be exciting. The fact that it’s a holiday makes it weird when you hear that there is a risk of depression. The common moniker for this is “holiday blues.” Though it remains an unofficial mental health issue, one can’t debunk its existence. This lays importance on mastering how to avoid depression during the holidays.
At that of the year, everywhere is all shades of red and green, but you feel down…blue. In spite of the celebrations around, you are suffering from a painful reflection, sadness, or loneliness. You get more prone to any or all of these because you have excess free time. There are several causes for these feelings.
Technically, holiday blues may be less serious than clinical depression. However, if you are on the addiction treatment and recovery journey, things can get pretty bad easily. Hence, the need for this article that explores the concept of holiday blues, addiction recovery, and everything else in between.
How Depression and Addiction Influence Each Other
Depression and addiction are two common disorders in society. Both, however, have similarities. For one, they leave victims almost a shadow of their former selves. While both can occur exclusively, there are also times when they influence each other. The most common scenario being depression influencing addiction and the recovery process.
Also, according to research, substance abuse is common in people suffering from depression. This two-way relationship between addiction and depression is worth taking time to study.
For alcohol addicts, things can get really bad. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Hence, an addiction to it can lead to depression. The user begins to show signs of lethargy, sadness, and hopelessness.
On the other hand, depressed individuals try to get drugs and other substances that can help them with the release of dopamine. This will lift their spirits and douse painful thoughts. Over time, this will only lead to addiction.
The inter-relationship between depression and addiction makes it difficult for someone suffering from both. To effectively master how to avoid depression, you must also fight on the front with addiction. This calls for dual diagnosis. The concept of dual diagnosis is not limited to addiction and depression. In fact, it can be a combination of any mental issue.
Of the various combinations, addiction and depression are most common. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, one in three adults struggle with both.
In the case where the individual hasn’t been suffering from addiction, depression more often than not leads there. As a condition that manifests itself in sadness, low energy, and feeling of hopelessness, depression makes substance abuse easier. Even worse, depression makes relapse easier for someone who is recovering.
There are several common causes of depression. Some of these are:
There are numerous cases of individuals suffering from depression, as it runs in the family. It’s not always a certainty that you’ll have it if family members are known to have it. However, it makes the chances higher.
As people grow older and retire from active work, they may get depressed. Underlying factors for this are living alone and a lack of social support.
Other health conditions like cancer, stroke, thyroid problems, etc. can lead to depression. This is because these diseases rid the individual of normal functionality. This can be very depressing, as it means you suddenly can’t do what you used to.
Trauma or grief
Abuse and loss of intimate individuals can also lead to depression for many people.
The various events that occur in life can break people who aren’t strong enough to handle such pressure.
It is safe to know that there is a difference between clinical depression and experiencing mere symptoms of depression. While clinical addiction doesn’t always get temporarily solved with substance use, mere depression symptoms can. Substance use will lift the spirit. Hence, most people easily fall into the trap, believing that holiday depression can be cured with substance use.
However, with regular use, there is a very high chance that such usage will turn to full-blown addiction. This is especially if it continues for a longer period. The attempt to get into high spirits gradually leads to another problem.
The whole concept of suffering from addiction and depression is tricky. When someone suffering from depression suddenly gives up on the substance, withdrawal symptoms kick in. This makes depression worse. Also, when you have gotten so used to treating your depression with alcohol, the depression rate heightens. Such that, just being sober becomes somewhat like depression.
How to avoid depression, in this case, requires care. You have to treat both disorders at once. There are professional addiction treatment and support services in Canada you can use. You need a professional because during “Dual Diagnosis,” each disorder can make the other worse. Also, by taking more alcohol or drugs, depression also becomes worse. This degree of complexity makes it pertinent that you subject yourself only to the treatment of an expert.
Now, you know the gravity of what a combination of alcohol and depression can result in. You should have enough motivation to want to avoid it at all costs. This brings us back to the concept of holiday blues.
Related article: Traveling for Addiction Treatment Improves Long-Term Recovery
Everything you Need to Know About Holiday Blues
In the real world, everyone has bad days. However, most times, we don’t get to see the true picture of things that are wrong because of much work we bury ourselves in. Things take a different turn during the holidays.
The end of the year holidays provides you with enough time to reflect on your bad days. Enough time to reflect on things that are wrong. Enough time to mull over the dreams that seem further distant.
Anyone can experience the holiday blues. Even people who normally enjoy their holidays. Holiday blues go beyond being the result of reflections. This season is typically one of high emotion and demand. This can make most people feel so stressed and exhausted. If you feel this way, you need to know how to avoid depression in those times.
Triggers for Holiday Blues
One of the most important tips for managing holiday depression is to know the triggers. When you know them, you can effectively steer clear of them.
Over-Commercialization of the season
The frenzy and expectations that come with the holiday season can make you feel down. The unwritten rule that you have to make it better than the last, which certainly costs more, can be stressful.
If you can’t control this surreal expectation, you may do yourself more harm than good. This can trigger slight depression symptoms.
Over-committing to the season
When it comes to the holidays, many people find it hard to say “no”. Committing yourself to too many invitations and events can make you breakdown into depression.
If you were to get around to everything you want to do, you probably won’t have enough resources for that. The best you can do for yourself during the holidays is to make a commitment to be healthy.
In the bid to outdo yourself or a friend, financial worries become your priority. When funds aren’t forthcoming, it can lead to holiday blues, summoning the feeling of being left out. Whatever your finance can cover, you should stick to that and shop within your means.
Fatigue and stress
More than we think, the holidays are always filled with a flurry of activities. The only caveat is that these activities aren’t work-related.
However, they leave you drained and more tired than you get after normal workdays. As much as you can, ensure you take a rest.
Being far from family
One other trigger of depression symptoms during the holidays is being away from family. The holidays have taken on the idea of being spent with family. Once you are unable to do this, the holidays will feel incomplete. This can lead to depression.
Signs of Holiday Blues
The presence of family members and friends can serve as depression and addiction support for the holidays. If holiday blues are left unchecked, things can get worse, at least for the moment. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling irritable or angry
- Feelings of exhaustion and fatigue
- Lack of pleasure
- Inability to make decisions
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Feeling lonely
- Not taking pleasure in normal activities
- Oversleeping or under-sleeping.
When holiday blues hit, you suddenly stop deriving happiness from what others enjoy. In fact, you stop getting any form of happiness from the things that used to make you happy before. These activities are those custom for the holiday season. These include; gifting, social events, family dining.
As soon as you notice these signs, it is best you counter them. You never can tell if you are simply suffering from a holiday blues that will blow over once the holidays are over. Or it’s one that may progress to seasonal affective disorder.
Difference between Holiday Blues and SAD
The holidays are meant to be a time of happiness and celebration. This makes it worrying that there are several mental disorders that can develop during this time. One of such is SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.
SAD, according to a study, is somewhat similar to holiday blues. However, there is a striking difference that separates the duo. SAD is known to occur when the weather conditions are darker, with shorter days. This makes it common during the fall and to the end of winter.
The major difference between SAD and holiday blues is while the latter may fade once the holidays are over, the other extends to the end of winter.
How to Avoid Depression During the Holidays
If you don’t attend to the mild symptoms of depression during the holidays, it can morph into something worse. There is a thin line between normalcy and falling into blues.
Here are some tips on how to avoid depression during the holidays.
Plan the holiday as early as you can
When you don’t plan effectively, you can get easily overwhelmed. You need to know just what you want to do and how much you want to spend. You also need to plan how you want to take care of yourself.
In your plan, include a routine that can help with restoration and relaxation. For instance, you can plan your reading schedule. Care for your mental health, intentionally.
Be wary of family conflicts
When the family gathers, as much as it births intimacy, it can also result in conflict. Conversations that start out well can easily lead to another issue. Hence, you need to be prepared for your response.
You should have a response that ensures you don’t take sides if you are caught in the middle. For instance, you can have a response like “let’s discuss this later.” As much as you can, kill every conflict before it starts.
If you suffer from addiction and are in treatment, you need to steer clear of conflicts. Conflicts lead to stress, which in turn may lead to depression. As we have seen, the effects of depression on addiction treatment can be bad.
Focus on the good aspects
There will probably never be the perfect Christmas. There will always be something missing. Don’t allow the imperfections to get to you. Focus on the good things that are happening around you.
Don’t dwell on the things you wish were better or in place. In this period, you should only think about the people that don’t stress you out. Everything can’t be perfect, don’t expect them to be.
Learn to grieve
This sounds absurd, but it’s the truth. When you fail to grieve, you open yourself to other negative ways of dealing with the emotion. When you lose a loved one, you should talk about it. Don’t try to bottle everything up, you may end up hurting your mental health.
You should cry. You should cuss out loud. These feelings are only a testament to the fact that you are human. It is a reflection of your healing process.
Get ample sleep
Activities can be so much during the holidays that you don’t get enough sleep. As much as possible, avoid this. Don’t allow the activities of the holidays to affect your sleep routine. Try to go to bed early and rise early.
Monitor your digital wellbeing
The internet makes access to information easy. In the same vein, it makes it easy to access other people’s lives. Online, you get to see what’s going on in other people’s life. You get to see how they go to places you can only dream of.
This constant reiteration emphasizes your loneliness. Hence, you need to be really careful about how much social media you consume in these times.
Be willing to ask for help
There’s a lot going on during this period. You can’t possibly do everything yourself. In all areas of your life, as much as you can, you should ask for help. When it comes to planning, you shouldn’t be the only one taking it all on your shoulders. If you notice any of the depression symptoms, you should also seek help. Don’t be afraid to seek help.
Your health is important, and you should know just how much frequent exercise can help you with that. Every day, exercise your body. You can go on a run. You can hit the gym.
According to research, the more stress you are in, the more you feel like you don’t have time. You should go out and do something. Exercising improves mood. Take a walk, take a run. Do something, anything.
Get into the light
If you are suffering from SAD or holiday blues, you should go out more. Getting into the sun helps your condition. SAD, especially, is caused due to inadequate exposure to sunlight. Take long walks in the sun daily till you get totally better.
Don’t overindulge in food or alcohol
During the holidays, everyone has a default want to overindulge in everything. From food to gifts and even movies. However, holiday blues can result from doing this. As much as you can, you should reduce the amount of junk food you consume.
A lot will go on during the holidays. However, you can’t do everything, you can’t be everywhere. When you get invitations to events, gatherings or outings, as much as possible, you should say “no.”
You can’t commit yourself to everything. Despite it being holidays, you don’t get more than 24 hours. So, limit what you commit yourself to.
How to prevent a Relapse during the Holiday Season
Preventing a relapse during the holiday season can be daunting. During the holidays, there are triggers everywhere. There’s enough time to indulge in whatever you want to.
This can be dangerous. Holiday blues can occur easily in this period of ‘excess time.’ If not carefully tended to, for someone who is recovering from addiction, relapse can easily occur. Hence, you need to know how to avoid depression which leads to relapse.
There are numerous causes and triggers for holiday blues. The most common of this is stress. Hence, you should avoid exerting yourself. You should ensure that your choice of activities and lifestyle is healthy. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, every time. You should also eat healthily.
Manage your recovery schedule well
During the holidays, therapy sessions may be few and far between. Also, support groups tend to disperse as everyone looks to be with family. This can be a tricky development, especially if you aren’t strong enough on your own. Do your planning ahead if this will be the case. Create the perfect support system for yourself.
You should inform your family ahead. You need them to monitor you closely. They need to serve as your addiction support for the holidays. There are also addiction treatment services in Canada that offer support all-year-round.
Don’t try it, say “no”
For substances like alcohol, you’ll be faced with loads of it during the holidays. If you are recovering from alcohol addiction, don’t even try one bottle. You’ll probably tell yourself that you can handle just one bottle. This is your mind tricking you. You can’t.
Instead, say “no” to friends and family offering you the drink. Prepare to stand on your decision, irrespective of how weak and vulnerable it’s making you seem. The holidays will be over. However, your addiction won’t be over if you keep relapsing.
Move with friends that are sober
The company you keep really matters when recovering. Despite it being the holidays, you should be careful of the company you move with.
Make sure you are walking with friends that are sober. Out of sight is out of mind. When you don’t see the substance you are addicted to, overcoming the urge is easier.
Don’t stay alone
As much as you can, make sure you have family and friends around. Being alone easily leads to holiday blues, which is just one step away from relapse. Have people that know your condition around you. Staying in control becomes easier with this step.
Have fun, be in the moment
Having fun releases dopamine ( a mood booster) to your brain. Ensure that you deliberately go for events and activities that are fun for you.
This way, you don’t have to worry about using a substance to put you in high spirits. Enjoy yourself. Go out of your way to meet new people. Be interesting. Connect with people you meet and have a good time during the holiday season.
It’s not enough to know how to avoid depression, action is critical. You must put all the tips to practice, deliberately, if they are going to work. Holiday blues is no cause for alarm, it can happen to anyone. Allowing it to progress is what can be dangerous. Hence, you need to give it a level of concern.
Related article: Try Out These Sober Activities For the Winter Holiday Season