NEWARK–According to the National Mental Health Association, the holidays and post-holidays may be a time of depression for some individuals. The reasons for this increased unhappiness can stem from limited financial resources and family tensions to fatigue and a sense of sadness when events do not go as planned.
“Unrealistic expectations of family gatherings and holiday parties often lead to disappointment and depression around the holidays,” says Laura Budinick, PsyD, Director of the Behavioral Health Network at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “Financial stress, overbooked schedules, lack of sleep, overspending and memories of “perfect” holidays past or lost loved ones can also all contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.”
For example, people who expect challenging relationships to improve just because it is the holiday season are likely to be disappointed.
“Assuming that this will be a ‘Norman Rockwell’ holiday puts pressure on all involved to meet unrealistic expectations,” says Dr. Budnick. “Idealized images of how events and gatherings should turn out can result in unhappiness.”
Women may be particularly vulnerable to sadness this season. A survey by the National Women’s Health Resource Center found that two-thirds of women report depression during the holidays.
Ways to Avoid Holiday and Post-Holiday Unhappiness
The following are suggestions from NBIMC’s Behavioral Health Network for avoiding feelings of stress and unhappiness this holiday season and beyond:
- Maintain strong social contacts all yearlong, not just at holiday time.
- Get physical exercise. Daily exercising sends more oxygen to brain cells and results in improved mood.
- Focus on positive images in your life. Be thankful for small moments of grace within the holiday whirl.
- Get plenty of sleep all year around and especially during the holidays.
- Identify worthwhile things to do beyond wrapping and shopping. Donate your time to others in need.
- Limit overeating and overdrinking. Focus on enjoying events without nervous eating and drinking.
- If you have a history of having upsetting holidays do things differently. Go out to eat instead of cooking. Do not over stress by trying to decorate the perfect house.
- If you cannot afford many presents, let your family know. Discuss an inexpensive family outing as an alternative or gift coupons or a night to play board games. Focus on time together as the gift.
- Seek professional help if you experience lingering depression. Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Behavioral Health services include multiple levels of care along a continuum which includes highly specialized medical care. Contact the Behavioral Health Network at 1-800-300-0628.