By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Beat the depression season.
We are coming up on depression season. Did you know it has its own season? Like the rainy season or strawberry season, there is a definite season for depression, and it is fast approaching. While there are lots of reasons people might get depressed for the holidays there are things you can do to prevent or reduce depression this time of year so please stay tuned to the end for the solutions.
You have seen or will see shortly see lots of stuff about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). A great many people suffer from a specific disorder which causes them to get depressed this time of year. Some people with SAD are OK during the winter but get depressed in the summer. A few unlucky ones get depressed summer and winter. These issues mainly have to do with changes in the hours of daylight and the weather. That’s not the only reason people will be getting depressed soon.
People with mood disorders, those who experience depression or bipolar disorder, are at extra risk to fall into depression this time of year. There are all kinds of reasons for people with mood disorders to have episodes of depression and this time of year has. The season has lots of stressors that may trigger a bout of depression. Sure seasonal changes are one reason but as severe as they may be, loss of light and cold weather are not the only reason people fall into depression this time of year.
One reason for a winter depression season, which I believe is significant, is the increased occurrence of colds and flu. When someone is under the weather, they get grumpy and want to be left alone. When humans are sick we tend to push others away. This is especially true of children. We see a lot of kids that were essentially well-behaved most of the year but suddenly during the winter months they get into fights with their caregivers and end up in emergency psychiatric facilities. Often these emergency admissions, in kids and in adults, will begin sniffling and sneeze within hours if not minutes of admission. They got into conflicts and were unable to manage their emotions in part because they were fighting off an illness.
There are a lot of family get-togethers during the fall holiday season. Events like these cause stress. Even good events can be stressful. But how often has a holiday get together ended in arguments and fights? What was supposed to be a happy get together has turned into a depressing occurrence?
Some people become especially depressed during the holiday season for the opposite reason, they have little or no family. That is not the way we picture a holiday get together. On T. V and in the store ads holiday meals are a large group of people all laughing around a table full of tempting food. Imagine eating a bowl of Top Ramen by yourself for your holiday meal? I am getting bummed out just writing about this.
Increased consumption of Alcohol and drugs in the winter time also results in an increase in depression. People with mental illnesses are at increased risk to use drugs and alcohol to try to feel better. They also smoke the majority of the cigarettes consumed in America. Add a full ashtray and an empty bottle of booze to that bleak alone Christmas table and see how the picture looks now.
People with substance abuse problems, of course, get really depressed, at the holidays or any other time for that matter. Alcohol is a depressant, plain and simple. Lots of us missed school the day they taught that. So the more you drink the more depressed you will probably get. Remember the twenty percent heaviest drinkers will drink eighty percent of the alcohol this holiday. They will also get arrested the most and they are fifty-five times more likely to attempt suicide when drunk.
People who do stimulants such as Methamphetamine will not be happy for Christmas either. Stimulant abuse does not make for happy people, just “wired” people. And when those drugs wear off and the user crashes, add them to the depressed.
So it does not much matter whether you have one problem, two problems or many. It is not important which came first, the mood disorder or the drug use. Lots of people are at risk for a bout of depression, from mild to severe, this holiday season.
So what can you do to avoid or reduce depression during the holidays?
A few simple steps, these are especially important if you know you are at risk.
1. Avoid alcohol and abusing drugs.
2. If you take meds stay on them and take them as prescribed. If you experience a severe episode of depression you may need to talk to your doctor or psychiatrist about your medication needs.
3. Spend as much time as possible in brightly lit places. A few hours a day of sunlight is great if possible. And definitely, avoid dark gloomy places.
4. If you have a spiritual or religious faith, practice it like your life depends on it. If you have severe depression your life just might depend on it.
5. Do not stay home alone. Find places to go and people to be around. This is an area where alcoholics, drug addicts, and other recovering people just may have an advantage if they chose to use it. All across this country and beyond, twelve-step groups will have increased meetings during the holiday season. Many have potluck dinners. Some groups will hold Alco-thons and marathon meetings, around the clock 24 hours meetings of recovering people who encourage and support each other. For more information check your appropriate fellowship on-line or call the local central office.
6. Make use of your support system. Call someone you care about. Call someone who cares about you. If you have no support system – see point 5 above.
7. Plan to do something for someone else. Any minute you are thinking about someone else is a moment you are not worrying about yourself.
8. Don’t hesitate to call or seek professional help. They are lots of local helplines. Please use them. The time to look up those numbers, like the time to develop a support system, is before you need them.
Hope you all avoid the depression season and have the happy life you deserve.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.