ARKANSAS, USA — While the holidays are a joyous time of year for most people, this time of year can also negatively impact the mental health of others.
"This time of the year has mixed feelings for people, depending on what your experiences are. And we'd like to highlight that everyone is not absolutely happy during the holidays, some people have a hard time," said Stacia Alexander, a licensed counselor.
Some people have what’s known as the "holiday blues."
Alexander is a licensed professional counselor who says maybe it’s caused by a loss in the family. She says there are many reasons for grief that we underestimate the impact it has on our lives.
"We talked to them about creating new traditions, making sure they're in a place where they feel peaceful, and they feel loved and cared for to help them offset those negative emotions that they may be feeling," she said.
She says this time of year can be much heavier for some people to manage and even overwhelming for others. She says this is the time of year people are spending with their families.
“If you're in a place where you're not feeling as well, and you're not spending time with people that you love and care for either, because they're gone, you've missed that time of the year to go back home and connect with them. Whatever those reasons are, that you're out of sync, it actually feeds into our, let's say, escalates to depressive symptoms that you may have already had going into the season," Alexander said.
If you do feel overwhelmed, she suggests scheduling a counseling appointment.
"I would also say schedule a counseling appointment so that if those feelings do get overwhelming for you, you have an immediate outlet," she said. "Just remembering that counseling is not just for crisis moments that it's also for lifestyle management. And if there is any particularly escalated occurrence of depression or anxiety, that's another emotion that will come up during this time of the year, then medication may be something that you want to consider."
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) also impacts people this time of year and can lead to symptoms of depression. It starts for most people when we begin to lose sunlight.
"So our bodies, you know, really depend upon light from the sun or sunlight to regulate our circadian rhythms,” said Dr. Dorothy Sit.
Nearly 40% of Americans say their mood declines in the winter and a quarter of those people reported feeling depressed. This is according to a recent American Psychiatric Association poll.
Dr. Sit is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She says light therapy can help.
"More recent studies have shown that it can be very helpful for treating non seasonal major depression. It can be used on its own or in combination with some antidepressant medicine,” Dr. Sit said.
Some other things you can do to make yourself feel better during the winter months are increasing your activity level, and getting sunshine when you can.