Holiday Blues and Depression
By Dr. Wendy Smeltzer | Medical Director | INcare | HEALTH
The holiday season can be a magical time, brimming with friends, family and fun – but for some, the season is challenging and emotionally draining. It’s often a time of reflection, and you may be reminded of the year’s milestones, including the heartbreak of loved ones that have been lost, life changes like retirement, separation, an empty nest, or general lack of fulfillment as another year closes. It’s important to understand that stress, anxiety, the holiday blues and depression are common this time of year.
If you’re struggling with the holiday blues, here are a few ideas to help get through the season
- Set realistic expectations. Make a list and highlight a few items that are high priority. Focus on those, and let go of others.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s normal that your holiday may not be as romantic nor enchanting as the movies portray!
- Spend time with people who are inspiring, motivating and supportive. Withdrawing can worsen depressive feelings.
- If you’re feeling lonely, try volunteering. Helping others can help make you feel both appreciative and appreciated, valued, and provide a sense of purpose
- Start a new tradition. If preparing turkey dinner for the family tires you or adds stress, make the holiday meal a potluck, order some of the meal from the grocery store, or even go out for your Christmas meal
- Try something new. Join a running club and start training for your first 5k race, take a cooking class or take up a new hobby like knitting or photography
- Limit your alcohol intake. Though you may believe it will help numb your feelings, alcohol is a depressant and will only make you feel worse
- Exercise. Try to get at least 30 minutes per day. Don’t want to go to the gym or it’s too cold outside? Head to the mall! Most are open early so you can get your laps in before the stores open
Need a little motivation to get out there? Try some of these free holiday events in Calgary:
- Wander past the Northern Reflections Window Exhibition in downtown Calgary
- Go ice skating at Olympic Plaza or one of the other outdoor skating rinks
- Tour the Lions Club Festival of Lights at Confederation Park
- Go tobogganing! Here’s a list of 22 places to go sledding in Calgary
Be mindful that you may be suffering from more than the holiday blues: Depression affects approximately 11% of men and 16% of women.
Signs of depression:
- Crying spells
- Mood swings
- Lack of energy and enthusiasm, even for things you’ve previously enjoyed
- Fatigue and changes in sleep patterns – especially awakening earlier than usual and not getting back to sleep
- Change in appetite; eating less or more
- Loss of interest in people, activities and sex
- Difficulty making decisions
- Feelings of low self-worth and hopelessness
- Thoughts of death and suicide
What to do if you think you’re depressed
- Seek help. Acknowledging you need help is the first step
- Speak with your family physician or other health professional
- Don’t be ashamed or uncomfortable speaking with your doctor. They are there to help.
- Depression is a legitimate health concern, and there are treatment options available
- Be honest and upfront; share your concerns and feelings with your doctor to ensure they can properly diagnose and treat your illness
- Ask your doctor to recommend a support group
- If you need a health professional to turn to, our Wello nurse practitioners offer phone, video and home visit consultations. (Wello is offering one free phone or video visit in the month of December. Click here for details)
- Call 211 or visit ab.211.ca for a free, confidential help line to assist in connecting you with the services you need. They offer assistance in 200+ languages
What to do if you or someone you love is thinking of suicide
- Call the Distress Centre Crisis Line – 403.266.4357
- Open 24 hours a day, offering confidential phone support and online chats
- Find a local crisis centre through the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention
- Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department
Although depression can cause profound emotional distress, studies show that the majority of people who receive appropriate treatment will improve or recover completely. It is important not to ignore the signs of depression and seek help if you are struggling.
Most importantly, remember that you’re not alone. There are lots of people out there wanting to help you get through this, and there are many excellent and effective treatments available.
Dr. Wendy Smeltzer is Medical Director at INLIV, leading the talented team of physicians for INLIV’s Total Health Management, Primary Medical, Medical Assessment, Corporate Health and Medical Aesthetic programs. She is serves as Medical Director for Wello. After obtaining an honours degree in Chemistry from Queen’s University, Dr. Smeltzer graduated with her MD from the University of Toronto Medical School. A family physician in Calgary for 18 years at Foothills Hospital and in private practice, she also opened the first registered medical spa in Canada. She earned her Diploma in Practical Dermatology at Cardiff University in the UK and continues to pioneer medical aesthetic techniques.