The holidays are just about here again. And with them can come a range of stresses and anxieties, among them: holiday shopping, holiday finances, family stress, mailing seasonal cards, attending parties and the tendency to neglect everyday routines at this time of year –– such as eating right and exercising. These can lead to the phenomenon known as holiday depression or the holiday blues.
Will Your Holiday be Blue?
According to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), depression peaks over the holidays. The unrealistic expectations of the season, time and financial pressures, missing loved ones and reflecting on past events as the year comes to an end all contribute.
During the holidays, a person can experience depression, loneliness, sadness, isolation, anger and abnormal sleep. Those who don't experience depression can experience other symptoms such as headaches, tension, fatigue, excessive drinking and over–eating.
It is also common to feel a holiday let down after the holidays are over. The hectic holiday period, and the feeling of being physically and emotionally drained can leave you with the sense of loss or frustration, and then that can turn into the blues.
The holiday blues can range from mild sadness during the holidays to severe depression, and they are often a normal reaction to life situations.
Disagreement Over the Term
The holiday blues are not a diagnosable clinical disorder. In fact, there is no agreement among mental health experts as to whether the phenomenon actually exists, because there is no increase in the number of people who seek mental health services in November and December.
Holiday blues should not be confused with clinical depression. Clinical depression is a disorder that may need to be relieved with medication, while the holiday blues could require something as simple as a good listener. Clinical depression, however, can be triggered in a number of ways at or just after the holidays.
There is also a tendency to link the holiday blues with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD, however, is a diagnosable disorder that is caused by fewer hours of sunlight during the winter. Although people with the holiday blues can also be afflicted with SAD, the two are not directly related. Patients with SAD suffer the symptoms not only throughout the holiday season, but also throughout the autumn and winter seasons.
The holiday blues may be alleviated with something as simple as getting enough rest. People actually lose sleep during the holidays and end up shortchanging themselves, so the brain needs to recuperate. Consequences of not getting enough sleep might be cloudy thinking, irritability and inability to deal with everyday stress.
Other ways to help ease the blues are to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and to start exercising. Also, make an effort to be more positive.
You're familiar with the symptoms of stress –– a pounding heart, increased perspiration, tight neck and shoulder muscles, anxiety and fear. But you may not know how to prevent or relieve these symptoms. Stress can be triggered by events, ideas, memories, emotions or failed expectations. The following actions can help you counteract the negative effects of stress.
A regular workout can release pent–up frustrations. Experts recommend getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Choose any aerobic activity: walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, stair climbing or step aerobics.
If life is too hectic for such a commitment, you can also find relief through briefs periods of exercise: Get up from your desk and take a walk around the building for 15 minutes, or go up and down a few flights of stairs.
One of the best ways to fight stress is to discuss your problems with a friend or relative. Our immune systems get a boost when our feelings are released, experts say. Talking to other people shows us we're not alone and helps us put our stress in perspective. Besides relieving the pressure, talking things out may lead to a solution to your problem.
If you can't find someone to talk to or have difficulty talking about what's bothering you, writing about the situation in a journal can be equally effective.
Pay Attention to Your Diet and Habits
A diet of wholesome, healthful foods can help stabilize your moods. Consuming caffeine, sugar, alcohol, nicotine and prescription or illegal drugs can increase your stress, making coping more difficult.
Make Time for Laughter and Fun
Surround yourself with happy people who like to laugh. Let the child in you come out, and you'll find laughter is one of the best stress remedies.
Immerse Yourself in a Favorite Activity or Hobby
Participating in an activity will give you a block of time when you're focusing on a task instead of on the problems in your life. Gardening, carpentry, sewing, working with clay, painting and drawing are good choices, but there are many good choices depending on where you live and the time of year.
Use a Variety of Relaxation Techniques
Deep–breathing exercises, progressive relaxation, visualization, creative imagery, yoga, meditation or listening to relaxation tapes can help. If you don't know how to get started, take a class. Relaxation techniques are skills that can be learned and practiced. Once you become fluent in one or two techniques, you can use them to manage your stress.
Live in the Present
Take a moment to think about the causes of your stress. Many of them may come from thinking about the past or worrying about the future. If you can plant yourself firmly in the present, you can leave many worries behind and focus more clearly on solutions to current problems.
Wellness Library Health Ink and Vitality Communications © 2011
Thinking positive is a choice. It's a decision to appreciate the roses in your life (loved ones, favorite activities and relaxing moments) while letting go of the thorns (stresses, disappointments and losses).
This doesn't mean pretending to be happy when you're not. If you're upset, it's important to deal with and talk about your feelings. Thinking positive means choosing to fill your mind with positive thoughts. Your reward will be a calmer, more hopeful attitude.
Steps on the Road to Healthy Aging
Eat nutritious foods and vitamins
Stay mentally and socially active
Be safe –– that means seat belts, air bags and fewer cell phone calls in the car, and helmets for bicycle and motorcycle riding
Get cancer, heart disease, hearing and vision screenings
Seek help for unusual symptoms
Take your prescriptions for problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol
Have You Heard: How to Stop Office Gossip
If you've been the victim of office gossip, you know it can be both cruel and destructive. Such malicious gossip has shattered many people's lives and careers.
Gossip is a type of verbal terrorism. “To destroy somebody's good name is to commit a kind of murder,” says Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of “Words That Hurt, Words That Heal.”
What is Gossip?
Gossip is anything negative you say about someone to someone else –– whether the information is true or false. Some people, however, believe it's OK to talk about others if what they say is true. While it's legal to spread truthful information about someone, it is gossip, and unethical.
Gossip Ruins Lives
Obviously, gossip causes damage because it can ruin a person's reputation. Spreading rumors about someone else's personal life can lead to the breakup of a marriage and family. Talking negatively about someone's job performance can be devastating to that employee's career.
Why People Gossip
Spreading secret information, especially something negative, makes people feel important. It also adds a bit of intrigue to the same old boring workday.
“For most of us, exchanging critical evaluations about others is far more interesting and enjoyable than exchanging good news,” explains Rabbi Telushkin.
Another Type of Gossip: Complaining
This type of gossip happens all the time at work. One employee gets mad at another employee, so the disgruntled person complains to a third party to vent his or her feelings.
This type of office triangle damages companies for the following reasons:
Nothing gets resolved between the two angry employees. A third person becomes involved and must take sides. Pretty soon the entire office gets caught up in an undercurrent of damaging gossip, with everyone choosing sides. The resulting tension lowers office morale and affects employee productivity.
What You Can do About Office Gossip
If you're the target of gossip, or if office gossip is a general problem, ask your supervisor to create an office policy on it. Management should announce the policy at a staff meeting or in a written directive all employees must sign. The policy should spell out that:
Gossip about anyone's personal life or work life is unacceptable.
If two employees can't resolve a problem between themselves, they should each write down the problem and possible solutions and submit it to their supervisor. The supervisor can then meet with the two employees and help resolve the problem.
An employee upset with a supervisor should talk directly with the supervisor and not with anyone else.
Employees who violate the rules will suffer consequences, which should be clearly noted.
What if You've Done It
Notice how often your talk unintentionally drifts toward discussion of other people. Next, notice how often you're a willing recipient of gossip. If you listen to gossip, you're guilty, as well. A listener must complete the gossip connection.
“If you have publicly said something cruel and regret it, call the victim of your remarks immediately and apologize,” advises Rabbi Telushkin. “Gossip spreads like wildfire, and you have no control over which direction it heads or how much damage it leaves in its path.”
Wellness Library Health Ink and Vitality Communications © 2011
How to Use Your EAP
When help is needed call 1–800–433–2320. Canopy staff will ask for your name, employer and a brief description of your presenting concern. If an emergency exists you will be given immediate assistance. If your situation is not an emergency, you will be offered telephone assistance and/or in–person sessions to complete an assessment and make a referral for treatment if needed.
Meetings with your counselor are completely confidential. Your employer will not know you have used the EAP. No one will be provided any information about you without your written consent. Exceptions would occur only in the event of you being considered dangerous to yourself or someone else.
At the first appointment you should be prepared to give the counselor some background information to assist in formulating an action plan. Many people find it helpful to prepare a list of things they wish to discuss at each session.