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Holidays can cause temporary depression

Posted: November 18, 2010 10:11 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2010 4:55 a.m.

If movies and television shows are any indication, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year.
In real life, however, it can be the  most stressful, especially with an ongoing recession.

“This year is especially interesting because of the economy. It’s created a lot more stress, anxiety and depression. We’ve gotten used to a certain expectation of ourselves. We need to lower those expectations,” said Dr. Arjun Reyes, direction of the behavioral health unit at Valencia’s Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

“Everyone is worse off than three, four or five years ago,” Reyes continued.

According to the Center for Disease control, approximately 1-in-10 Americans suffer from depression. Reyes noted an increased level of depression among his clients during the holiday months, with many contributing causes.

“The holidays are a time of reflection, of what it was like in the past — and for a lot of people, that may have not been a good time in their lives. It‘s also about connecting with people you haven‘t seen in months or years, like in-laws, which can be stressful,” Reyes said.

“It’s a time when people start relapsing in terms of substance abuse, eating, drinking and gaining weight. Sometimes people feel isolated and don’t want to engage,” he said.

Symptoms of depression, according to WebMD, can include:
* difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions

* fatigue and decreased energy, feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness

* feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

* insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping irritability

* restlessness, loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable

* overeating or appetite loss

* persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramp, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

* persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Since gaining weight and being out of shape can increase depression symptoms, Reyes suggested committing to a regular exercise routine during the holidays. Intake of alcohol, which is a depressant, should also be limited.

Activities, which can get very hectic around the holidays, should be prioritized.

“Decide which ones you absolutely have to go to, and which ones will be less stressful,” Reyes said.

Another tool to minimize feelings of sadness is a daily gratitude list.

Simply write down the top five or 10 things you are grateful for.

“It’s being thankful for what you have in terms of family and health. A gratitude list can give you perspective. A lot of times, when people feel stressed, they can gravitate toward the negative, when in reality, if they look at the overall scheme of things, they don’t have it so bad,” Reyes said.

Not comparing yourself to others is also helpful, as Reyes illustrated.

“You have to look at your own situation and not think about what other people have or don’t have. The issue is you. Focus on that,” he said.

For more information on depression or for a free online depression screening, visit


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