7:00 A.M. ET Dec. 7, 2011
| NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
The holidays and the accompanying change in daylight and temperature can be mood changers for many people. A UMNS photo illustration by Kathleen Barry.
View in Photo Gallery
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — at least that’s how the song goes. But for many people, the holidays are anything but joyful.
If no one invited you to a Thanksgiving feast and you aren’t likely to be getting any Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or New Year invitations, you probably dread this time of the year. In fact, a recent poll conducted by Consumer Reports found 35 million Americans are more “Grinch” than “angel” because they don’t like having to be nice for the holidays.
Dr. Rhad Bailey, head of Meharry Medical College’s department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in Nashville, said the added stress can catch up to anyone.
“The holiday blues are an emotional disorder along the lines of clinical depression,” Bailey said. “Some people may really have an ongoing emotional disorder … that is exacerbated during this time period that maybe they have ignored or downplayed all the symptoms throughout the year.”
The time between Thanksgiving and the New Year are filled with activities at school, work, church and home. It is also when, in many places, the weather turns cold and dark. It almost seems like a perfect recipe for disappointment.
“Holidays tend to be happy, festive times for many, but it also adds more stress than necessary and creates a paradigm of expectation that things will be done a certain way,” Bailey said.
Stress can come in the form of trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, fatigue, or difficulty remembering or concentrating on things. Sometimes it can lead to despair, to a feeling of worthlessness and in extreme cases, suicide or suicide attempts.
Bailey said to watch for behavioral “red flags” such as becoming negative and not enjoying things once loved, not finding a way to move from a bad place to a positive place, and simply giving up.
One thing that lowers his stress is having coffee with his 70-year-old uncle. “That works for me,” he said. “For others, it may be afternoon prayer, playing with the kids, visiting family and friends, or listening to music.”
But if those things aren’t working, don’t be afraid to call for professional help, he said.
“Many have not accepted they can have a brain illness just like a heart or a lung or a kidney problem. That it is not their fault; it is not due to any personal weakness or lack of spirituality or religion. It is a medically-based health-care concern.”
* Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.