Tis’ the season to be jolly
What a nice sentiment for the holidays, but not everybody thinks so. If you’re feeling blue this holiday, you are apparently not alone. Nearly 7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older is affected by major depressive disorder.
Depression is a medical illness that involves the mind and body. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems because it affects how you feel, think and behave. Depression may interfere with your normal day-to-day activities and make you feel as if life isn’t worth living. Sleep may be impaired during an episode of depression, which can lead to deeper levels of depression.
Depression is more than feeling sad. Depression can place people at risk for suicide or it may be the unwelcome partner to someone going through the grief process.
Some people have a clear sense of why they become depressed. Others don’t. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or other treatment. However, some view depression as a weakness of character and may not seek help unless encouraged and supported. Therapists may not be available, and cost concerns may be a barrier to professional treatment and medications.
These are some of the things the Suicide Awareness and Prevention Task Force is learning as it prepares community outreach programs. Working with the county Public Health and Human Services departments and the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, the task force is working to provide education and training for itself and to the community at large.
While many families look forward to being with loved ones, eating favorite foods and wrapping a special gift during the holidays, others are grieving the loss of a family member, struggling with financial issues, suffering a serious illness or dreading five months of cold weather and social isolation.
For some, depression and stress are as much a part of this season as happiness. But few folks talk about it. The media machine wraps the season in tinsel and bows. Relationships seem rosy, depicted in the soft glow of candle light. We may medicate our sadness, relationship problems and depression with alcohol and prescription drugs.
If you have lost a loved one through death or a tragic accident, or if a life-limiting illness has taken claim to your mind and body, then the holiday season may not be a time of celebration for you. Trying to make the best of a difficult time may be you holiday priority. Here are some suggestions that may be helpful.
Thoughtfully decide what you want to do during the holidays. Design your own holiday making note of the traditional things you honor and adding new things that fit better with the changes in your life.
Recognize that this is a new holiday, unlike the holidays of the past. Establish a new ritual or tradition.
Acknowledge the absence of your loved one. Let your thoughts, memories and tears flow freely.
Initiate activities you think you would enjoy. Don’t wait for someone else to call.
Include the deceased in your conversations. Once others realize that you are comfortable talking about a loved one, they may share their own stories and memories.
Make a donation in memory of your loved one for others to appreciate and enjoy.
Extend yourself to someone who might be alone or isolated.
Take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest and exercise.
Monitor your intake of alcohol and high sugar foods.
Deliberately look for moments of enjoyment and meaning in your day.
Start a conversation. Share information. Support help-seeking behaviors for yourself and with others. Keep the community dialogue going. Help is available. One prescription for the holiday blues? Listen. Talk. Repeat as needed.
Linda Trenbeath is a health educator for Clear Creek Public and Environmental Health. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 303-679-2386.