What to Do When Your Loved One Might Be Battling Holiday Depression

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From watching holiday movies while the fireplace casts a warm glow to gathering around the table for good food and laughs, we tend to associate the holidays with positive feelings and heartwarming moments.

But for some, the holidays can also trigger unwelcome battles with sadness and depression. Dr. Philip Muskin, Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, notes that the “holiday blues” are a real disorder; they can be brought on by realizing that the good times associated with the past can no longer be replicated.

Like other forms of depression, sufferers and those around them can take positive steps to minimize distress and healthily cope. Here are a few things to consider if you think your loved one may be experiencing holiday depression.

Be Honest

Proactivity is vital in combating bouts of depression. Take time to think back over past holiday seasons. Do you notice a pattern in behavior? Does your loved one appear more withdrawn or stressed during this time of year? If so, it can offer some helpful perspective and infuse you with a dose of compassion that their actions could be tied to something deeper.

Know the Signs

Depression can manifest itself in a number of ways. The National Institute of Mental Health provides a helpful list of symptoms, including signs like headaches, cramps, and irritability that might not readily be associated with depression. Educating yourself is an important first step.

Encourage Openness

While most seniors report feeling satisfied with their lives, your aging loved one might exhibit less obvious symptoms or be hesitant to share his or her feelings of sadness. Don’t be afraid to step in and act as a catalyst for a compassionate discussion. Talking openly about your own feelings can create a safe space for your family member to admit what’s ailing him or her. In fact, far from perpetuating feelings of sadness, honest grieving paves the way for healing and growth.

Patience Is a Virtue

It’s fine to admit that the depression of others affects you. Do your best to have patience during this season. Listen as they share their frustrations and disappointments, but make it a practice to highlight things that elicit gratitude and point towards hope.

Get Up and Go

Researchers continue to find evidence that physical exercise boosts our mood. Try going on a walk. If your options for mobility are limited, there is still much to be said for the mental stimulation that comes with taking in new sights and sounds, so even pushing your loved one’s wheelchair can help break up the sense of monotony that fuels depression. Also, some professionals suggest soaking up vitamin D in the event of Seasonal Affective Disorder through diet and sunlight.