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

Ask Dr. Miller: Dealing with Stress in the World Today

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 stress?  In this podcast I explain the difference, give examples of each and provide simple ways (affirmations) to quickly release stress and enter a relaxed state of mind, body and spirit.

This audio excerpt is from my program Stress Fitness Volume 1. Please visit my online store at ShopDrMiller.com for more information about this and my other audio programs.

Ask Dr. Miller: What is Cognitive Dissonance, Stress and Negative Programming?

Ask Dr. Miller: How Does Inner Turmoil Create Illness?