Indianapolis, Dec. 10, 2018 – While so many of us spend this time of year in anticipation of the festive holiday season, the period between mid-December through early January can mean just the opposite for those who experience intensified feelings of loneliness, depression and sadness.

Those miseries are compounded during this time of year by family issues, a lack of sunlight, time and shopping pressures and setting holiday expectations so high that they’re difficult to meet.

All of these catalysts and others can trigger a syndrome known as the winter or holiday blues, and it’s of the utmost importance to realize when those symptoms evolve into major depression or anxiety, which many people suffer from.

“Anytime you experience feelings of sadness or depression for an extended period of time and it becomes a hindrance to your life or creates reason for great concern, we want you to understand that help is readily available,” said Dr. Ashley Overley, CEO of Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health. “There are a wide variety of treatments available to help individuals fight the symptoms of SAD or depression and Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health is here to help.”

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs at the same time annually, can also result in depression and feeling “blue” throughout the winter months. About 5 percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD and it typically lasts about 40 percent of the year. It is more common among women than men, and found more often in people living far from the equator where there are fewer daylight winter hours.

Here are some helpful ways to deal with stress and anxiety during and after the holiday season:

•             Keeping expectations manageable and setting realistic goals.

•             Make the effort to set aside differences with friends and family members.

•             Set aside holiday planning worries by scheduling specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and family, and other activities.

•             Be willing to acknowledge your feelings and reach out to others.

•             Doing something for someone else, such as volunteering at a shelter or wrapping an elderly person’s holiday gifts.

•             Stay active and hit the gym to relieve stress and gain powerful endorphins.

•             Enjoying activities that are free.

•             Spending time with supportive and caring people. 

•             Saving time for yourself.

•             Limiting alcohol consumption.

Mental health experts from Eskenazi Health Midtown acknowledge that some level of stress is normal but suggest that when someone feels overwhelmed for an extended period of time, help should be sought. Chronic stress may be a catalyst for certain anxiety disorders and other illnesses. In addition, post-holiday blues can also develop after the hustle and bustle of the holidays wane and families return to their homes, leaving older relatives alone.

Depression is revealed through loss of enjoyment in daily activities, loss of sleep and appetite, feeling sad or empty, guilt, and even thoughts of dying or suicide. Stress can also be a very serious health issue with symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, heart palpitations and nervousness. Dr. Overley said that if left untreated, depression can lead to decline in functioning at school or work, social withdrawal, and potentially even suicidal thoughts or behavior. It is important to know that there are effective treatments available for depression.

Eskenazi Health Midtown was established in 1969 as the first mental health center in Indiana and offers an array of mental health services, including severe mental illness and substance abuse treatment, 24-hour emergency services, and specialized home-and community-based programs for children and adolescents with serious emotional disorders. For more information about the services offered at Eskenazi Health Midtown, please visit www.eskenazihealth.edu.

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