When you think of the holiday season, you probably think of family, friends, fun, and all around having a good time. But there are also a lot of people who act like they’re having fun when in reality, they don’t feel a thing. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 6.7%, or 16.1 million adults of the age 18 and older in America, struggle with Major Depressive Disorder, which is a form of depression.
Mental health has been a taboo subject for decades, but in recent years a spotlight has been cast upon it. Seasonal Depression is as relevant as ever during the holiday season, which may shock many people since it’s known as the most wonderful time of the year. Things like the change in weather, the time change, and the overall stress of school and midterms can play a role in a person’s mental health. Many students may just brush it off as stress due to school assessments, but for others it can be much more than that.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is also known as seasonal depression. Especially with living in a tropical place like Florida, it may be difficult when the seasons change and people can’t do all of the fun outdoor activities due to the temperature drop. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms can include social withdrawal, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and other mental illnesses such as anxiety. Anxiety can play a huge role in depression and seasonal depression.
“What they call it is anticipatory anxiety. It’s when you’re anticipating an event or something and you have increased worry and fear surrounding it,” said Kari Ramos, the head of the Mental Health Awareness club and student advisor.
“What happens is, with anxiety, fight, flight or freeze happens. A lot of times with mounting work like midterms and projects, the tendency is when you have anxiety, whether it be about school, what goes on at home, friends, or whatever it is, because of fight, flight or freeze, you often will procrastinate.”
Some of the symptoms of depression include losing interest in what you would usually find joy in (such as a sport or hobby), constant exhaustion, lack of motivation, change in mood and attitude, feeling “numb” to emotions, and much more. So while you have the stress of the holiday season on your plate, check in with yourself and your loved ones to make sure they’re ok and that you’re ok.
Another big thing that can contribute to seasonal depression and depression in general is expectations. Things like the expectation of what a holiday is supposed to be like, the expectations of family members, etc., can all be contributors to anxiety and depression.
“First of all, you have to notice, ‘wait a minute, is this an expectation of myself or of other people? Is it realistic?’ You can also get very frustrated similarly when you have expectations of other people or of an event that are maybe too high or just the wrong expectations,” said Ramos.
“It’s important to name what you’re feeling. Try to give yourself some time and space away from devices, work, T.V., whatever it is. Take a walk, a bath, do some meditation, just overall some time and space to have some clear thoughts. Get in touch with what you’re really thinking and feeling,” said Ramos.
If you’re feeling depressed, it’s very important to reach out. Don’t be afraid to take some time to yourself to dissect what you’re feeling. It’s ok to not be ok, but reach out for help if needed. If you or a loved one struggle with SAD or another form of depression, the most important thing is to know that you are not alone and that there are other options. Visit a physician and tell them about your symptoms and they can help. Mental illnesses are not a weakness, but they are an obstacle that make you stronger.