As we are all aware, the winter months and holiday activities are a time of happiness for many people, while others seem to experience an increase of sadness and distress. Anniversaries can sneak up on us and change our mood at any time during the year, but especially during the midwinter holidays.

Often our first awareness of it is the change in our feelings; only later do we understand the full reason for our dreary mood. Anniversary or holiday blues are often attributed to the “stress” of holiday activities and expectations, but actually, there are several possible sources:

  • Those who find they feel “down” between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day may be among the 5-20% suffering from what is known as S.A.D. — Seasonal Affective Disorder. They’re reacting to the diminished amount of natural light; there seems to be a chemical change in the brain involving chemical melanin. People affected by S.A.D. may be helped when they extend their day with full- spectrum fluorescent light.
  • Annual activities make it easy to see the changes in our own lives and in the lives of our loved ones. Anyone who has experienced a major life change or loss since the last time the generations got together cannot help but be reminded of it during winter months when so much emphasis is on social contact and “tradition.” Increased sadness, nostalgia, or unexplained feelings of loss may actually signal that there are things that need to be acknowledged or grieved one more time. This is natural and normal grief. Grief is not the same thing as depression, although inadequately handled grief can turn into depression. Normal evidence of the passage of time can bring with it mixed feelings of pleasure and regret — things change, we get older.
  • Many people have a non-seasonal kind of depression that is biological or chemical in origin; they are somewhat depressed most of the time and may have the ability to disguise it from their own or another’s awareness — most of the time. This type of depression tends to become evident when compounded by any amount of stress and/or grief. Unnoticed at other times of the year, it is very likely to surface at this time.

Usually, depression involves the subconscious or conscious perception of a loss (potential or actual). The unconscious mind interprets it as loss, whether it has happened or not. It may be the loss of a relationship, possession, social status, or Self-esteem, the loss of a physical sense, or ability. If it hasn’t been grieved or accepted, energy continues to be lost from the psyche — it’s as if there were a perpetually open, unhealed wound. Grieving is healthy — it is what heals the wound.

When a person anticipates a loss and this perception is accompanied by fear, energy will also be drained away — in this case by fear. This energy drain leads to an inability to feel anger, to mobilize it, to protect what’s theirs — they feel helpless and weak. Continual fear further weakens them, leading to a reactive depression.

When the environment is especially chaotic, as it is these days (global warming, terrorism, financial meltdown, double dip depression, swine flu, Paris Hilton . . . shall I go on?), we often find ourselves feeling angry at the ineptitude of those we have chosen as our leaders. But when there is no adequate channel for its productive expression of this, the blocked emotion frequently leads to depression. Each additional perceived loss leads to more inwardly directed rage, resulting in guilt, shame, and obsessive self-recrimination.

A powerful antidote to energy-draining depression in any form is the development of a strong spiritual center, healthy Self-esteem and the ability to express anger in a productive way. The depressed “anger in” person may actually be harmed by instructions to “let go” of their anger and to “forgive.” To do this might possibly cut off the only path to healing because the inner anger is, in fact, the healthy desire to express and resuscitate the suffocating Self.

A change in environment – and this could mean a weekend in the country, visit with a positive, inspiring friend, church or other spiritually uplifting experience, exercise, or just putting on upbeat music – is an excellent first step. The seed of joy and freedom is within, and awakening it is the goal; we can learn to access that place within each of us from which deep healing arises. Complete resolution involves developing positive self-images, commitment to values that have deep meaning, releasing excess tension, and reengaging fully with life and love.

Anyone caught up in “Holiday Blues” deserves compassionate attention. Most of the time what is being felt is just a bit of grief and nostalgia. Sometimes it becomes “dysthymia,” or “subclinical depression,” and the suggestions above (perhaps with a little St. John’s Wort or 5 HTP), or the use of the “Escape From Depression” CD program is all that is needed. “Clinical Depression,” on the other hand, is something more serious. If you suspect this is the case, don’t underestimate the gravity of the situation — always consider professional help.

Signs of Depression

Don’t ignore signs of significant depression! Repeated tearful episodes, sleep disturbance, change in sexual function, hopelessness, helplessness, disturbed eating patterns, self-destructive (even suicidal) behaviors can all be signals that someone is in the grip of a major depression.

People who are this depressed often find it hard to engage in any form of treatment — to dedicate time and energy to something that they feel will/should fail is risking another disheartening blow to an already weakened ego. They may have little or no tolerance for change and not enough strength for introspection. (Research has shown that as a result of genetic factors, chemical usage, childhood trauma, and so forth, there may exist a structural change in the neuronal membrane and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter serotonin. In many such cases the newer anti-depressants — known as Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) — can produce profound changes even when other approaches have failed.)

One of the symptoms of serious depression is to block or deny any form of help. A depressed person literally has no confidence in a happy outcome, so it is an act of courage for them to take any steps toward healing. If you are the person “standing by,” your tender regard and patience will be crucial. The most effective contribution you can make to their peace of mind is to listen without trying to solve anything to support them to seek professional help.

Helpful Audio Programs

The following programs could be used in conjunction with any treatment that a physician or therapist would recommend, whatever type of symptoms are being experienced.

Joy and freedom are your birthright! Claim them!

Related Guided Imagery, Hypnosis, and Meditation Programs

Guided Imagery to Escape From Depression

Meditation to Abolish Anxiety

Bestseller – Letting Go Of Stress

Start your day right with Launching Your Day Meditation

Learn the true words of The Serenity Prayer (Guided Imagery)

I AM: Awakening Self-Acceptance Meditation

Ask Dr. Miller: Why Balance Emotions?

August 18, 2010 by EMiller
Filed under Ask Dr. Miller


How To Decode Your Body’s Messages

Q: Can your health be affected by your self-image, beliefs, and expectations?

A: Absolutely! In my book, Deep Healing: The Essence of Mind/Body Medicine, he not only explains why this is true, but conversely how your body can tell you some things about your innermost feelings and thoughts you didn’t know.

Most of us know that traumatic experiences in our lives can affect our health. We have probably had the experience of getting sick to our stomachs during or after an upsetting event, or getting a bad cold or the flu following a traumatic emotional loss. But just as our minds can send out messages that have a negative impact on our bodies, the very power to do that suggests the exact opposite: that perhaps our minds can also have a positive influence on our health.

If this is true, then we need to honestly examine the beliefs and attitudes that might be affecting our health. Conversely we need to take a fearless look at our chronic health problems and see what they are telling us about ourselves. As Woody Allen said in Annie Hall,  “I don’t get angry — I grow a tumor.” Perhaps his statement was more than just humor.

Self-Survey Questions
Here are some questions that are intended as guidelines to focus your attention on issues that affect the mind-body. For optimal results, you can continue to ask them as you go about your daily life. You may find that these questions help you take charge of your health in ways you may have once thought impossible.

1.     Have you noticed if you get more colds when you are depressed, under great pressure, or are feeling angry at someone in your life?

2.    Has a physician or friend ever told you that if you don’t slow down, you’re going to have a heart attack? Has anyone recently told you to “take time to smell the roses?”

3.     How is the health of those you modeled your life upon (i.e., mother, father)?

4.     Beliefs such as your drive for success, power or recognition, guide the path of your life. Is the drive for material wealth such an overriding belief that you take no time for your family, personal recreation, or doing something really good for yourself?

5.     Do you see these kinds or correlations in others ?

6.     Do you get headaches, stomach pain, tight jaw or hold your breath when you feel tense? Do you experience these symptoms before an important meeting or before making a decision?

7.     Does your stomach or intestine cramp or act up at certain emotional times? For instance, do you experience an increase in stomach pains when faced with criticism from authority figures?

8.     Do you have loose bowels, constipation, or frequent urination at times of fear and sadness?

9.     Is there a lack of religious, ethical, or spiritual beliefs to guide you in your life and give you a sense of purpose?

10.     Do you tend to develop throat, thyroid, or respiratory problems when you are anticipating an important dialogue, or are preparing a public presentation?

11.     Do you injure your back or develop pain/spasm because of the pressure you put on yourself?

12.     Do your allergies worsen at times when you feel defensive? Or, when you are unable to express anger towards others?

13.     Do you have a skin rash or irritation that worsens when you are embarrassed or nervous or when you get too close in a relationship?

14.    Do you have asthma attacks more often when you are  feeling anxious?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you can begin to see that the relationship between the body and the mind is indeed very complex and interesting. Of course, the emotional component is only one aspect of a chronic disease. There are genetic, environmental, and nutritional aspects to each type of illness. Previous injury or infection, the use of drugs, and exposure to chemicals can determine which organs become involved, but the psychological environment sets the stage by strengthening or weakening the immune system.

Emotions & Immunity

Your immune system is responsible for the constant surveillance of your health. This amazingly complex system is able to detect the tiniest bits of foreign material or invaders that might be a threat to your health. In the case of a virus or bacterium, your immune system identifies what kinds they are and then synthesizes substances to eliminate them or render them benign. However, as a result of stress, your immune system can become overloaded and unbalanced, becoming less effective. While this explanation oversimplifies how and why the system malfunctions, it does provide us with a good picture of the process.

In many ways, the immune system is dependent on the central nervous system for its proper functioning. This is how your thoughts, feelings and beliefs play a role in your immune functions. When you experience high levels of stress, for instance, the immune system may be thrown out of balance. The study of the relationship between stress and the immune system has given rise to an entire field of medicine known as psychoneuroimmunology.

Twenty-five years ago, Miller set himself upon the daunting task of awakening the medical community to preventive healing methods which used no drugs or surgery, but which changed the immune system through directly changing the mind and its habitual pictures. By examining immune cells during a variety of mental states, the medical community has begun to see that medicine and psychology are two sides of the same coin.

The specifics of how these immune responses actually work is so complex that only a team of doctors could explain it to you in detail, but the essence of it can be boiled down into four basic types of “messages.” When the immune system overreacts it can lead to 1. allergies (external) or 2. autoimmune disease (internal). When it underreacts, it can lead to 3. repeated infection (external) or 4. to cancerous tumors (internal).

UNDERREACTION (EXTERNAL)
If the immune system fails to detect foreign invaders or doesn’t mount a strong enough defense against them, this is underreaction, and can lead to our getting repeated and acute and chronic infections. This helps to explain why when individuals are under severe stress, some experience increased numbers of colds, yeast infections, flare-ups of herpes, some kind of sinus infections, or other conditions caused by microorganisms. Which organs become involved depends on a variety of factors such as genetics, nutrition, exposure, drugs, chemicals, and prior injury or infection, as mentioned earlier.

UNDERREACTION (INTERNAL)

When the immune system underreacts to internally generated factors, it fails to rid the body of abnormal cells and cellular waste. Often these are mutant cells that function ineffectively, and could become cancer cells if allowed to multiply. Immune cells are ordinarily capable of identifying and destroying them. When your immune system fails to identify or destroy such abnormal cells, it can lead to serious disease, such as cancer.

OVERREACTION (INTERNAL)
When the immune system overreacts to the internal environment, it can produce what we call “autoimmune” disease, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus erythematosus. A chief characteristic of most autoimmune diseases is that antibodies are produced that attack normal healthy cells. Often, these “friendly-fire” antibodies aim their attacks against specific cells — the cells lining the joints, the kidney, or blood vessels, for instance.

OVERREACTION (EXTERNAL)
On the other hand, an overreaction of the immune system to external agents can lead to the development of allergic reactions. An allergic reaction happens when your immune system reacts to substances that are not a threat to your health. Histamine is produced by the healthy immune system to isolate areas of the body that have been attacked by harmful chemicals and microorganisms. It does this by creating swelling and inflammation. An overreacting immune system might produce histamine in response to a harmless substance; grass pollen, goldenrod, etc.