Holiday depression can be a very real problem

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    By John Lough
    Special to The PREVIEW
    While the holiday season is a happy and joyful time for most people, it can also be a time of sadness and depression for many. In most cases, overcoming seasonal depression is a simple process, but in some cases it can be a serious problem.
    According to all the stories we see on TV, sparkling scenes in local department stores, and beautiful ad campaigns in magazines and newspapers, this is a happy season with all kinds of good times and pleasures. And, while that can be true in many cases, all the promotion of this “happy” season can also build up unrealistic expectations and a resulting disappointment when we can’t match the images that are bombarding us.
    We may find ourselves becoming upset because we aren’t being invited to all the best parties, we can’t afford lots of amazing presents and we aren’t having the “perfect” holiday we imagine others are enjoying. When we compare ourselves to how things “ought to be,” we can feel that we’re being cheated and left out for some reason.
    Other factors that can contribute to holiday depression are the lifestyle changes most of us face during this season. Our diets suddenly include more candy, cookies and alcohol than normal. We are exercising less, facing shorter, colder days and have less time for outdoor activities and our regular routines.
    So how to avoid these depression triggers? A good starting point is simply realizing that the media-promoted “perfect” holidays don’t really exist. Instead of envying that television family or the holidays you imagine the neighbors having, focus instead on the good and positive things in your own life. Think about the things you really enjoy in this season.
    It’s also a time to stay in control of your life. Balance holiday party temptations with a healthier diet at home. Make time for regular exercise. Just a brisk 30-minute daily walk has been shown to help fight holiday depression.
    It’s also important not to isolate yourself. Get together with friends and family, not to discuss how you’re feeling, but just to enjoy them socially. Doing so can do a great deal to lift your mood.
    But if you find that holiday depression isn’t going away for you despite your best efforts, talk to a counseling professional, your personal physician or your clergy. Serious depression is not a health problem to be ignored.
    “Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.