It's not always the most wonderful time of the year for people during the Christmas holiday season and with the earlier and earlier start for holiday shopping and advertisements, depression can hit a person at an earlier time.
Bob Edwards, psychologist with Upward Living in Minot, said the holiday season brings diminished light as well as memories that are both pleasant and filled with absence and despair, commonly referred to as the holiday blues. In a more serious expression of the blues, he added, the syndrome might be classified as seasonal affective disorder.
The concept of the holiday blues refers to the feelings that many people have that associates itself closely to grief, loss, memories, and current stressors felt during Thanksgiving and Christmas, Edwards explained. In a clinical sense, it is the reprocessing of repressed memories or pieces of unresolved issues and is seasonal in nature, he continued, and often associated with the financial pressures of the holidays.
Bob Edwards, psychologist with Upward Living, located at 312-3rd St. SW, sits in his office Wednesday afternoon. Edwards said he has noticed an increase in feelings of depression in people due to the earlier and earlier start of the holiday shopping and advertising season.
People are seemingly feeling depressed earlier due to the earlier start of the holiday season because "it's so easy to spend money you don't have and then feel guilty about it," Edwards said. "And the city is still in the grasp of the flood. Ever try to put an eight-foot Christmas tree in a FEMA trailer?" Christmas doesn't end on Dec. 25, either, he noted, because then there are the post-Christmas sales.
Edwards said he has noticed an increase in holiday depression. "In general, North Dakota is the number one state in the nation (for depression) because of the protracted season of darkness," he noted. "I've seen a great deal more (of depression) in my practice."
Over the holidays, people tend to feel depressed because of the heightened memory of lost relationships or the death of loved ones who were very meaningful, Edwards explained. The feelings of loneliness, sadness, grief and loss are intensified by the gray, clouded skies of winter, he added. Other reasons people tend to feel the holiday blues is due to seasonal affective disorder and because of a tendency to idealize the holidays, Edwards also said. Stress is a factor as well, he noted. People put so much unspoken pressure on the season to create a new life and they have unmet expectations for peace, love and joy being met from an event instead of coming from within themselves. "The gifts cannot cover the regrets of past dones and undones or the losses of times gone by. So we wake up the day after only to feel the pain of the unmet day before."
Though often not considered, what people eat is also a cause of the holiday blues, Edwards pointed out. The overeating of chocolate and sugar have a very damaging effect known as psychometabolic blues. The psychometabolic blues are specific to chocolate, sugar, refined white flour, and caffeine, Edwards said, and eating them creates psychometabolic blues. They give a high and a crash, he added, but they also release cortisol, which is an enzyme that creates weight gain and stress.
To feel less depressed over the holiday season, Edwards offered several recommendations. He recommended that people acknowledge their true feelings, give themselves permission to accept the way they feel, and learn to practice the ownership of those feelings. He also recommended that people watch their diet, don't stop exercising or setting realistic goals for the holidays, laugh and cry a lot, talk to friends and build meaningful support relationships, do for others, spend less on themselves, and redefine their focus to peace on Earth and goodwill toward others. "Spend within your budget, give some (money) back, spend less on gifts, and give of yourself to others."
"Be hypervigilant about paying attention to a person's depression," Edwards said. "Depression is the leading cause of suicide."