As soon as the “ber” months roll in, we are giddy with the prospect of planning the perfect Christmas. But the closer we get to the holidays—with all the shopping, decorating, and entertaining we have to do—thoughts of peace and joy fly out the window and an unwelcome guest dampens the festive mood: depression, also known as the holiday blues.
The words “depression” and “sadness” may be used interchangeably by non-medical folk, but according to Paul Lee, M.D., head of psychiatry at the Manila Doctors Hospital, there’s a set of criteria that distinguishes depression from ordinary sadness. “Everyone can feel sad, but when the low mood lasts for more than two weeks and begins to affect all aspects of your life, you may be experiencing a major depression.”
The symptoms of depression are many. Dr. Lee lists five to watch for: “If a feeling of gloom and doom comes with disturbed sleep patterns, changes in eating patterns, a loss of interest in your usual activities, an inability to find pleasure in your hobbies, or changes in your social nteractions, you are having a bout of depression.”
But why does it seem to rear its ugly head especially during the holidays? Dr. Lee explains, “Christmas interrupts the normal way we conduct our lives. We try to perceive it as a happy occasion but because of the expectations, it becomes stressful.” It turns out unreasonable expectations in relationships, finances, and physical demands can trigger the blues.
Relationships can be a source of stress, with tensions often heightened during the holidays. Existing family misunderstandings can intensify, most especially among members who don’t see eye-to-eye and are forced to socialize. Dr. Lee expounds, “Imposed family interactions can get quite hairy, most especially with family you dislike. But you can take control of the situation. Don’t be shy about turning down an invitation. If left with no choice, show up and make a quick getaway after 30 minutes.”
What happens when one is dealing with the absence of a loved one? “It’s okay to feel sad. Accept it. Share your feelings with loved ones and keep a hopeful outlook by counting your blessings. It’s easier said than done, but it’s a magical first-aid,” says Dr. Lee.