Updated Friday, December 21st
The holiday season is a joyful time of year for most, but for some, SAD (seasonal affective disorder,) can negatively affect this festive time of year. SAD is a type of depression that affects a person during a certain time every year. This is commonly brought on during the winter months, and can be called the “winter blues." SAD can intensify when a person is trying to find the perfect gift for a loved one or someone you feel obligated to shop for, traveling to different locations to spend quality time or “make an appearance," and thinking of ones we may have lost or simply do not live near enough to see, can all leave someone in severe emotional distress.
Unfortunately, SAD coupled with the added stress of the holidays leads people to cope in certain harmful ways. Some will lose sleep during the holiday months, staying up thinking about all that still needs to be done. People tend to overeat during the holidays, which could lead to weight gain, and in turn, contribute to other health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Others will resort to excessive drinking which only adds to depression and can have other serious health concerns. One can become physically ill due to extreme stress and depression, and this can lead to headaches and other physical ailments. Due to all the potential adverse side effects of SAD, and with the added holiday stress, many people find themselves dreading the best time of the year, which should be spent celebrating the birth of Christ.
The holidays should not feel like a burden. Although there may not be a perfect resolution to eliminate SAD, there are some suggestions to help those feeling overwhelmed.
Light therapy is an effective treatment for SAD. As the time changes, we experience less sunlight which can negatively affect one’s health. Light therapy provides the needed vitamins one would typically get from the natural sunlight.
Do not make excessive commitments. You can only do so much, spend so much, and be in a limited amount of places for a certain amount of time. Don’t make promises to which you cannot fully commit. Know your limits, and don’t overextend yourself.
Use the support systems you have. Chances are others around you are feeling the same way. Help each other cope, and support each other during this time.
Get enough sleep. Sleep may be the most difficult for many. Find a way to relax before laying down in bed. Don’t start wrapping presents and leave half of them undone at bedtime, and then stress about finishing it all night. Go to bed with a clear mind, or find an activity, like meditation, to clear your mind before lying down.
Do not abandon healthy habits. We get overwhelmed and busy during this season and forget to take care of ourselves. If you are someone that finds joy in working out, don’t forget to make time in your schedule to continue this healthy activity. Also, if you are someone that does not typically work out, make time to do so, even if it’s a walk around the neighborhood during daylight hours.
Do not resort to unhealthy crutches to cope with the stress and depression. Many resort to excessive alcohol use during this time of year. Alcohol consumption will add to depression.
Delegate tasks to other capable parties. As children or other family members get older, they can take on holiday tasks. For example, have the guests bring dessert. It is one less thing about which to worry.
Prioritize. You don't need to accomplish everything. Leaving out one minor holiday tradition will not be the end of the world. Prioritize and decide what is truly important, and eliminate nonessentials.
Try something new. We live in an ever-changing world, and although we may have our holiday traditions, it’s never a bad thing to make some changes. You can even create new traditions that may be less stressful and time-consuming.
If you spend the holidays alone, try volunteering somewhere. Spending the holidays helping others, and seeing the joy it brings them, may boost your spirits.
Lastly, if the stress and depression from the holidays are becoming too much, and no coping strategies are helping, it is okay to seek professional help. Some of us cannot cope as well as others, and this can lead to emotional and physical issues that require medical help. There should be no shame in seeking professional advice, and taking care of your own wellness when the need arises.
The holiday season is a cherished time of year and should be spent celebrating what truly matters, which is the birth of Christ and spending time with loved ones. If SAD is something that you are experiencing during this time, it may be beneficial to utilize the above coping methods or find a coping strategy that works best for you. We wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas, and a safe and Happy New Year.
Three Biblical Truths for SAD Sufferers to Remember
“God has a purpose in winter.”
“Winter is evidence of God's unchanging nature.”
“Winter will end.”
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the Christian. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.riverviewbaptist.net/pastor-joels-blog/2017/1/12/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad-and-the-christian