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Unhappy Holidays

December 3, 2017
"The holidays remind me that I'm alone."
"I can't afford to give people the kinds of gifts they expect."
"My family will always consider me a failure compared to my sister."
"I'm in too much pain to act like I'm enjoying myself."

These are just a few of the reasons why many people find the holiday season to be an unpleasant time of year. Depression can be caused by a number of different things – certain chronic illnesses, grief, medications, hormones, substance abuse – and it can also be brought about or amplified by stressful experiences.

Not only can depression result in uncomfortable physical symptoms like headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances, sleeplessness and fatigue, it can also worsen a chronic illness such as diabetes or high blood pressure. This is especially dangerous for those who have a chronic condition that has not yet been diagnosed. Unfortunately, when people suffer from a combination of chronic illness and depression, they are even more likely to avoid family, friends and activities they once enjoyed. That isolation may intensify the depression.

The most frequently cited “triggers” for depression during the holidays are: family gatherings or being away from family and friends; concerns about money and spending; high or unrealistic expectations; fatigue; over-committing and over-commercialization.

To cope with these triggers, consider trying some of the following actions:
  • plan daily “me” time to focus on your own needs
  • practice saying "no" to avoid over-committing yourself
  • donate to a charity instead of buying commercial gifts
  • prepare a budget for reasonable spending
  • ask for help when you need it
  • set time limits for various tasks or events to prevent rushing from place to place
  • Deep breathing can also be a helpful tool to calm yourself when you feel frustrated or anxious.
Don’t wait for a crisis or suffer in silence. There are multiple ways to address depression and people do get better. Regardless of whether you or a loved one suffer from major (clinical) or seasonal depression, it’s important to speak with your primary care physician about the symptoms. He or she will be able to assess your needs, determine whether a chronic condition is present and discuss possible treatment options.

GBMC has 10 primary care practices throughout the Baltimore area. If you do not have a primary care physician, visit to find one who is right for you.
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