December is here, and with it, the holidays. There is less daylight and for many, more drinking. For students, December means finals and the end of the semester. There may be rushing around with the pressure to get just the right gifts and attend parties. Many people increase their debt.
While the blues can occur anytime of the year, they receive more publicity around the holidays.
In psychology, there are different ways we define “The Blues.”
SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs most often in the winter and is associated with decreased daylight. Exposure to light has critical effects on our physiology. Some people are more sensitive than others. Although medication can help, a natural solution is simply to get more light. This can be as easy as spending more time outdoors. There are light boxes that can be used for up to 30 minutes during the course of the day.
Sadness: Sadness is part of the normal range of emotion. It’s healthy and temporary. It helps process a painful experience and loss. It helps connect with other people’s pain and suffering. It’s even in our common language: “It makes me sad to hear that …”
Depression: Sadness is a component of depression when it lasts more than two weeks. Depression is more than sadness, it includes decreased energy, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, insomnia or excessive sleeping, changes in eating patterns, feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and thoughts of self-harm. Depression is pervasive. With sadness, a person can experience pleasure outside of the area of sadness, while depression is all-encompassing. Depression is not normal and requires treatment.
Grief: Grief is a normal reaction to a tremendous loss. This can include the death of loved one (human or animal), loss of a relationship, severe negative changes in health or other devastating loss. It shares many of the characteristics of depression. It can last much longer than two weeks and can be temporarily triggered with anniversaries of events, holidays or no obvious reason at all. Grief can turn into clinical depression. Peer groups, counseling and being with supportive people can help.
Suicide: It is a myth that there is an increase in suicides during the holiday season. With suicidal thoughts, it is important to get help quickly. One resource is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (24 hours, everyday) 1-800-273-8255.
Wishing happy and safe holidays for everyone. FBN
By Don Berlyn