With the scent of sweet peppermint candy canes wafting in the air and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the holiday season is usually a time to share with family and the closest of friends.
However, for those already wrestling depression and feelings of anxiety, the months of November and December can be anything but the “most wonderful time of the year” that the late singer Andy Williams so gallantly sang about in his 1963 hit.
“Things may not be the way they used to be for some individuals and the holidays might bring up emotions that were already present during the year,” said clinically licensed certified social worker DeEtta Roberson-Carter. “During the holidays, those emotions might get more attention.”
“Individuals could be dealing with grief and loss because loved ones have passed or are not present. Often times remembering a very close person that’s no longer there is one of the main triggers.”
Roberson-Carter specializes in combating depression at her Pikesville, Md. practice, Live Well and Thrive Therapy, and said onset can begin with one trauma and last for a lengthy period of time if help is not sought.
Symptoms of depression include hopelessness, self-isolation from others.
Poor appetite, sleeping too much or sleeping too little are also both signs that someone is suffering from depression. Body language can also be a trigger shown outwardly, while feelings of worthlessness might fester on the inside.
Individuals who are experiencing depression may no longer find enjoyment in activities that once brought joy and might be more irritable in general.
The Mayo Clinic also warns to look out for depression that returns at the same time of year annually, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which tends to begin in the fall and last throughout the winter months.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders is common among 15 percent of the nation’s adults, with 12-month prevalence at more than 10 percent. Anxiety disorders include many conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorders, phobias, and panic disorders.
Roberson-Carter told the AFRO that giving to others is one sure way to fight off the blues during the Christmas and New Year holiday season.
“That doesn’t mean literally giving anything per se,” she said. “But it could be a smile or just checking in on a neighbor during the holiday.”
“There are so many organizations that can serve others. The hospitals need volunteers, along with the soup kitchens, the clothing closets, and the local church, even if you’re not a member.”
She also encouraged taking care of the body and mind.
While she admits it might be the last thing on the list when an individual is feeling down, Roberson-Carter said that exposure to sunlight can go a long way in triggering chemical responses within the body to feel better. “Our eyes need to see the sun”, she said.
“It’s very easy to get caught up in gift giving, or just the marketing of the holiday season. You have to take time to take care of yourself, eat well, exercise, and get ample sleep.”