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Tennessee Department of Mental Health: Are You Feeling the Holiday Blues?

Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse ServicesNashville, TN – The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services would like to wish you a great holiday season but also inform you about the major mood disorders that can accompany the holiday season. Avoid the “Holiday Blues” in order to enjoy this wonderful time of the year.

Unfortunately, the holiday season brings about overwhelming feelings of stress, anxiety and sadness for too many Tennesseans.

The Holidays: A Time of Joy, Happiness, Cheer and Major Stressors
The Holidays: A Time of Joy, Happiness, Cheer and Major Stressors

One universal contributing factor could be a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

This condition is prevalent during the winter months due the cold temperatures, dreary days and dwindling daylight hours.

Recommended treatments to help combat SAD include: increased sunlight exposure, artificial light therapy, temporary use of antidepressant medications or professional counseling and therapy.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Symptoms:

  • Depression or Prolonged Feelings of Sadness
  • Avoidance of Social Situations
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Excessive Need for Sleep

Early recognition and treatment of SAD is important but there are other factors unique to the holiday season that can prove to be detrimental to your emotional well-being:

  • Unrealistic Expectations, The holiday season is often over-sensationalized and this perception is perpetrated by the media, movies and marketing campaigns. People regularly find themselves falling short of their perception of what the holidays should be. When in reality, everybody’s ideal holiday season is unique to their own individual and family needs; there is no ideal holiday formula for success! Don’t find yourself judging your holiday success based on a phantom perception of how the holidays should be celebrated. Find the right balance for you and your family in order to have a joyous and celebratory holiday season.
  • Financial Shortages, This time of year can be financially demanding on individuals and especially larger families. As parents, we often undertake the burden of trying to meet every request on our children’s gift wish lists despite our financial situation. In reality, we should fully contemplate the impact the holiday season will have on our budget and accommodate only the additional expenses that are economically feasible. Planning ahead for what your holiday budget should be and sticking to it will help alleviate some financial stress. It is important to remember that the success of the holiday season will not be measured by the monetary value of the gifts we give.
  • Remembrance of Past Losses, Sentimental memories are an inherent part of the holiday season. It is completely natural to think about those loved ones no longer able to share the holiday joys with us. During this time of the year it is important that we not dwell just on our loss and grief but that we reflect on all of the positive and joyous moments we were fortunate enough to have shared with the ones we have since lost. This positive outlook on remembering those we have lost will help keep the holiday sadness away.
  • Increased Alcohol Use, Holiday parties can often be marked by alcohol filled celebrations. While moderate alcohol consumption is not a problem for everyone, it can lead to increased feelings of depression for many. It is important to remember, that by its nature, alcohol is a depressant. When you combine increased alcohol use coupled with the additional stressors already present in the holiday season, you are creating a depression cocktail. Remember to be mindful of your alcohol consumption in order to help prevent the “Holiday Blues.”
  • Overscheduling, Life’s regular schedule can be hectic enough without adding in all of the additional holiday activities. Over-committing yourself for too many obligations can be a recipe for disaster during the holiday season. Prioritizing and planning your holiday events can be instrumental to your emotional well-being. Instead of over-extending yourself to an unmanageable schedule, try to take time to relax and actually enjoy your time during this holiday season. A slower pace during the holiday season might help keep the blues away.

In closing, my hope is that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season full of joy and happiness, but if you find yourself or a loved one feeling more than their share of the “Holiday Blues,” please seek help by calling our Office of Consumer Affairs at 615.532.6700 during business hours (M-F 8:00am-4:30pm) or the 24/7 Toll-Free Statewide Crisis Line at 1.855.Crisis.1 or 1.855.274.7471.

Marie Williams, Commissioner
Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services


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