Is It Holiday Stress Or Symptoms Of Depression?

By Paul Gaita 12/20/18

A recent Forbes article explores the differences between holiday stress, holiday blues and depression and what you can do to contend with them.

man in Santa hat dealing with holiday stress

While the December holiday season is typically a joyful time of the year, it can also be a period of considerable stress over gift-giving, travel and visitors, workloads and a host of other related issues.

Expectations of happiness can also result in the "holiday blues" – feelings of loneliness, loss or isolation that can be exacerbated by the pace and tone of the time period – which can be compounded by the clash between a negative or sad experience, like the loss of a loved one and the pace of the holidays. In some cases, these feelings may be indicative of an actual underlying depression.

A new essay by Forbes contributor Jeanne Croteau attempts to differentiate between holiday stress, holiday blues and genuine depression that may occur as December winds down into the new year, and what you can do to contend with them.

As Croteau noted, it's normal to experience some holiday stress due to the sheer amount of expectations and obligations that happen, often at the same time, during this time of year. The shorter, darker days of the winter months can also have an impact on your mood and can result in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can take a toll on your mood, energy and ability to sleep. Treatment options for this condition can include therapy, medication or light therapy. 

What's important, according to the feature, is to be aware if you are feeling depressed or alienated during the holiday season and to take action when possible. It can be easy, as Croteau noted, to wait for others around you to take notice of your feelings, but in the hectic pace of the holidays, they may miss the often subtle suggestions of depression. As a result, individuals can feel that those whom they consider loved ones don't care, or consider them a burden.

Reaching out to friends and family during periods of holiday depression can be crucial. Letting people know what one is experiencing can be an important first step in receiving support that can lead to more substantive assistance. Face-to-face meetings, phone calls and texts can all be lifelines that are needed in the face of oppressive sadness.

There are also professionals who can provide greater insight or assistance to those in need. Therapists and support groups can be useful options, depending on your location and financial ability; barring those, the article cited the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) and Crisis Text Line as viable options for immediate assistance.

The Forbes piece concludes with a call to readers to reach out to others – friends and family or otherwise – to reaffirm commitments and care. Calling or spending time with friends and loved ones and asking – and listening – to how they're doing can be, as Croteau stated, "the biggest gift you can give anyone during the holiday season."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.