Finding Joy in the Holidays
It’s not fair. This is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year,” according to a classic holiday tune. Yet, here I am, putting on my P.J.’s as soon as the sun sets. Trying to find excuses for staying home when I have a night-time activity. Pulling the covers over my head in the morning to block out the sun, when I should be getting ready for work. Sometimes I tell myself I’m just being lazy and anti-social. How can I find joy in the holidays when I’m feeling blue? Why can’t I just snap out of it? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real, and I have it.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. Depressive episodes linked to the summer can occur, but are much less common than winter episodes of SAD.” 
I want to decorate for the holidays. I need to go shopping. I’m looking forward to attending programs and parties. So, how do I push through the desire to stay in my recliner? How do I persevere? First, I need to understand what I’m facing and how to treat it. According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), the six most common symptoms of winter SAD are: 1) having low energy; 2) hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleeping); 3) overeating; 4) weight gain; 5) craving carbs; and 6) social withdrawal (feel like hibernating).  Check, check, check, . . .
The prevalence of seasonal depression is anywhere from 0-10 percent of the population, depending on the geographic region. 
Even with an average of 5% of the population diagnosed with SAD, there’s a good chance you or someone you know has it. But the good news is, when we talk to a medical or mental health professional, we can find a treatment plan that will help relieve our symptoms. We don’t have to stay stuck.
More good news:
We can break out of the our depression and enjoy the many blessings that come with the holiday season. In addition to the treatment our physicians recommend, we can embrace activities that bring joy back to the holidays. Here are a few ideas.
- Participate in an activity or hobby that brings you joy and fulfillment
- Replace thoughts that pull you down with happy memories or reasons to be grateful
- Donate your time to serve others instead of dwelling on your own difficulties
- Establish a daily routine that focuses on healthy activities for body, mind, and spirit
I’d love to see your ideas in the comments!
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (Philippians 4:8-9, Holy Bible:The Message translation)
This is, and can be, a season of hope, joy, and peace. Happy Holidays!
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml
- Stuart L. Kurlansik, Annamarie D. Ibay. “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Am Fam Physician. 2012;86(11):1037-1041. From an article accessed on the Mental Health America website. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/sad
This is the second in a series of blog posts containing personal stories of living with mental illness. Every story is unique, but there is a common thread that goes against stereotypes. Having a mental illness does not prevent a person from living a productive, joy-filled, amazing life.