It’s Christmas! So Why
Am I Depressed?
By Candy Arrington
-- The people who walked in darkness have seen a great
Light; those who dwelt in the land of intense darkness and the
shadow of death, upon them has the Light shined. Isaiah 9:2 (AMP)
The Holidays are supposed to be the most joyous time of the year
– festive clothes, gourmet foods, decorations, lights, parties,
beautiful music, religious emphasis, family, and friends –
so how could anyone possibly be depressed?
If thoughts of the Holidays cause you to feel down and make you
want to sleep until mid-January, you’re not alone. The idea
that everyone is happy in December is a myth. An estimated 10
million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) or
what is often referred to as “Holiday Blues.”
Although SAD is a culprit in holiday depression, here are some
other factors that affect your mood at Christmas and cause you
to feel depressed:
- Unrealistic expectations – We all have
visions of what think Christmas should be. Often we view Christmas
through child-like eyes, hoping to recapture the magic and wonder
of hazy memories. We tend to remember only the good things and
expect a fantasy Christmas even as adults. These unrealistic
expectations lead to feelings of disappointment or unfulfillment
when events turn out to be less than we expect.
- Debt – Millions of Americans are heavily
in debt and excessive Christmas spending leads to an even greater
burden of debt. Advertisers are adept at hooking us into believing
we have to purchase gifts for everyone from our immediate family
to teachers to acquaintances to postal carriers to…the
list goes on and on. Setting a Christmas budget, saving throughout
the year, and resisting the urge to exceed the budget will help
keep spending within reasonable limits.
- World Events – The events of September
11, 2001 brought terrorism and its affects to our door. Suddenly,
fear regarding personal safety and national security became
every day issues. Wars and rumors of war along with constant
talk about nuclear weapon stockpiling change the mood of the
nation, even at Christmastime. Military deployment places families
on opposite sides of the globe, causing separation at a time
when families are normally brought together.
- Aging family members – Watching parents,
grandparents, and other family members age is a difficult process.
As life expectancy increases, so do problems associated with
long-term care, mental function, and quality of life. Many of
us are put in a position to become caregivers or provide financial
assistance to aging family members. Remembering these loved
ones in younger days against the backdrop of their current physical
or mental incapacities tends to cast a shadow on holiday festivities.
Additionally, memories of deceased loved ones dampens the holiday
- Magnification of existing problems –
Historically, Christmas is a time that emphasizes family togetherness.
However, if you grew up in a family situation that was less
than idyllic, the holidays may bring back memories of abuse,
neglect, or abandonment. Ongoing relationship problems with
parents, siblings, children, or your spouse may seem more intense
and more unsolvable during the holidays. Often, looking at other
families who seem to be happy and have it all together intensifies
your feelings of inadequacy or lack of control over current
Now that you know some of the reasons for depression during
this season, what can you do to offset the symptoms? Following
are some things you can do to lessen the affect of “Holiday
- Bask in the light – One of the most
effective treatments for seasonal depression is light therapy.
Even twenty minutes seated beside a sunny window or walking
outside at lunchtime helps. The other all-important light source
is God’s word. In the business of the season, don’t
neglect time in Bible study and prayer.
- Exercise – One of the best ways to
combat depression is with physical activity. Often this is difficult
when all you want to do is curl up under an afghan and sleep,
but find an accountability partner and hit the gym instead.
Aerobic exercise increases the heart rate and releases endorphins
in the brain, which leads to increased feelings of well-being,
not to mention helping you avoid those unwanted holiday pounds.
- Lower your personal goals – Many times
we overload ourselves with “must do’s” during
the holidays. Often these goals are unrealistic and leave us
with a feeling of defeat when not accomplished. When you’re
already feeling depressed, a list of undone to-do’s can
be overwhelming. Decide to lower your personal goals during
the holidays. Take a serious look at what you hope to accomplish
and then strike through or decrease requirements for some of
the things on your list. If you’ve ALWAYS done things
a certain way, give yourself permission to do it differently
and simpler this year.
- Focus on making pleasant memories –
Even if Christmas reminds you of a depressing past, you can
take steps to create pleasant memories for the future. Begin
a new tradition that is unique for you and your immediate family.
It can be as simple as a Christmas Eve song-fest and story time
or as elaborate as an overnight trip to a fancy hotel. Whatever
you choose let it require a minimum of preparation and maximum
- Perform acts of service for others –
A great way to overcome feelings of sadness is to focus outward
rather than inward. Realize you are not the only one struggling
during the holidays. There are many others who are sad, depressed,
and lonely. Even though you may not feel like exerting yourself,
push yourself to find a way to offer an act of service for an
elderly or disabled person in your church or community. It may
involve wrapping presents, driving someone to a doctor’s
appointment, or simply listening and offering words of comfort
Seeing the needs of others helps you see the blessings in your
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Candy Arrington is the co-author of the book Aftershock:
Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (Broadman &
Holman). She is a winner in the 2001 and 2003 Blue Ridge
Mountain Christian Writers Conference contest in the unpublished
article category and was a judge for the 2004 Writers Digest
self-published book contest. She is also a C.L.A.S.S. (Christian
Leaders Authors and Speakers Services) graduate.
Contact Candy by e-mail at CNAnSptbg@aol.com,
or log onto her Web site, www.CandyArrington.com.
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
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