Seasonal depression

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Depression during the holiday season is a very real thing, said Tommy Wright, clinical director at the South Central Alabama Mental Health Board.

“It’s also very real after the holiday as well,” Wright said. “The holidays are filled with family and fellowship, but for those who may be missing those things, the holidays can be quite depressing.”

Wright recommends that people learn to recognize common holiday triggers, so you can disarm them before they lead to a meltdown:

• Relationships.

“Relationships can cause turmoil, conflict or stress at any time, but tensions are often heightened during the holidays,” he said. “Family misunderstandings and conflicts can intensify — especially if you’re thrust together for several days. On the other hand, facing the holidays without a loved one can be tough and leave you feeling lonely and sad.”

• Finances.

“With the added expenses of gifts, travel, food and entertainment, the holidays can put a strain on your budget, and one’s peace of mind,” he said. “Not to mention that overspending now can mean financial worries for months to come.”

• Physical demands.

“Even die-hard holiday enthusiasts may find that the extra shopping and socializing can leave them wiped out,” he said. “Being exhausted increases your stress, creating a vicious cycle. Exercise and sleep, both good antidotes for stress and fatigue, may take a back seat to chores and errands. To top it off, burning the wick at both ends makes you more susceptible to colds and other unwelcome guests.”

Wright said when stress is at its peak, “it’s hard to stop and regroup.”

First, “acknowledge your feelings,” he said.

“If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief,” he said. “It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

“Reach out,” he said. “If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. And, volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.”

If those avenues don’t offer the comfort needed, Wright said that’s what the community helpline is for.

“You can call us 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week at 334-222-7794,” he said. “Someone is on the other side ready to listen or ready to get you care if need be. If you need a friendly ear, we’re here to help. If you need help in dealing with a difficult situation, we’re here to help.”