The holidays are often considered to be the happiest time of the year, but in the midst of all of the holiday cheer it can easily go from a joyous time to one filled with stress that, if left unmanaged, can lead to depression. Dana Chandler, D.O. and Anna Herring, PA-C, of Williamson Medical Group, share their insights on some of the biggest triggers that lead to stress during the holidays, ways to cope and when you should seek help from your physician should you feel you are suffering from depression.
The holidays are typically filled with family get-togethers but, according to Herring, these get-togethers can be a trigger for anxiety and stress during the holidays if an individual does not have a close bond with their family. “It is a time of year where there is real emphasis on spending time with family and if there’s not a strong family unit or if there’s conflict in the family, people are more susceptible to depression during the holidays,” said Herring.
The absence of family is another component that can lead to the feeling of loneliness and play a role in depression around the holidays, according to Chandler. “The absence of a loved one during the holidays really brings that home and will lead a person to feel like there’s a void in their life, so when they see or hear of others enjoying time with their family it can leave them to feel alone which is never a good feeling especially during the holidays,” said Chandler.
Finances, or the lack thereof, can also be a leading cause of stress and anxiety. Whether it’s pressure to spend an enormous amount of money on holiday decor or to buy the best (and sometimes most expensive) gift, that pressure to spend can be crippling—and not just on your wallet.
Chandler shares that there is underlying guilt people feel when they wish they could buy their child the gift they want but they know that they cannot. “I see it a lot especially with parents that have young children. Their eight-year old might have begged them for a new game system for Christmas, because all their friends have it, but the parent can’t afford it and then they feel guilty.”
If the stress of family functions and lack of finances were not enough, people also tend to take on more than they can manage during the holidays. With the pressure to do everything and be everywhere there leaves little, if any, time to keep your mental health in check.
“I feel like we overwhelm ourselves and that causes a lot of added anxiety and stress during the holidays that could then lead to depression, but I think a lot of it is just saying yes to everything and then all of a sudden we’re faced with having to do it all and it stresses ourselves out trying to do it,” said Chandler.
How to cope with holiday depression
Limiting those situations that can cause anxiety and stress during the holidays in the first place is key, according to Herring. “Not over committing yourself, setting a realistic budget that is going to work for your financial situation and limiting time with certain family members is the first step to avoiding those triggers that can cause unnecessary stress,” said Herring.
Another effective way of coping would be to increase your level of physical activity.
“Exercise in general is a great way to cope with depression, regardless of the time of the year,” said Chandler. “Just 30 minutes a day, five days a week has been clinically proven to be almost as effective as antidepressants.”
Chandler also suggest volunteering your time (without stretching yourself too thin) as a way to cope. “I think reaching out a helping hand to others puts things into perspective and points out the blessings that you do have and, in return, you feel good about yourself because you helped someone else,” said Chandler.
When to call your doctor
According to Herring, it’s important to realize when you might have a more serious issue that goes beyond typical anxiety and stress during the holidays. “If you feel that you’re not as joyful as you typically are, feel a lack of motivation, or have developed a loss of interest in activities that you normally would enjoy then those are big indicators of underlying depression that would warrant seeking treatment or getting professional help.”
Chandler says, “When you’ve made the distinction that you have a problem or you’re not coping well then it’s important to talk to your doctor. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be prescribed antidepressants but there are lots of other options out there to treat depression. At the end of the day, I feel people should be encouraged to go talk to their doctor because that’s what we are here for and we can be your ally on your path to wellness.”
About Dana Chandler, D.O.:
Dana Chandler, D.O., is a board-certified family medicine physician with Williamson Medical Group in Thompson’s Station along with her colleague Anna Herring, PA-C, certified physician assistant. Their office can be reached by calling (615) 791-2470.Share this Article