Battling holiday blues

While the majority of people won’t experience seasonal depression, looking out for fellow Airmen and family members can help to identify those who might be experiencing holiday blues. If you notice someone acting different don't be afraid to reach out to them. (Courtesy photo)

While the majority of people won’t experience seasonal depression, looking out for fellow Airmen and family members can help to identify those who might be experiencing holiday blues. If you notice someone acting different don't be afraid to reach out to them. (Courtesy photo)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- For many people, the holiday season is filled with celebrations and spending quality time with family and friends, but for some, this time of year can bring out feelings of depression and the "holiday blues."

While increased depression is often associated with the holidays, it's actually other seasonal factors that are often the root cause.

"Wintertime can cause a subjective sense of depression because the days are shorter, and most people alter their lifestyle in reaction to darkness and cold," said Maj. (Dr.) Lisa Blackman, 39th Medical Group Mental Health branch chief. "So you might exercise less often, spend less time playing outdoor sports or stop doing all of the things you like to do outside. Cutting down on fun and physical activity are two factors that often leads to depression, so it's a good idea to pay attention to all of the things you stop doing and try not to quit doing everything that defines you."

While the majority of people won't experience seasonal depression, looking out for fellow Airmen and family members can help to identify those who might be experiencing holiday blues. Looking tired or getting too much or too little sleep, losing interest in hobbies that were once important and changes in appetite are some of the signs that someone might be depressed, according to Major Blackman.

"Statements indicating low self esteem or high amounts of guilt about small things are also signs," the doctor added. "As always, anyone talking about suicide should be taken seriously and given support by a unit, family, or helping agency."

There is an array of options to help people battle their holiday blues, whether it's a touch of seasonal sorrow or a more serious case of depression.

"For normal holiday sadness, we could help each other out by keeping busy, taking advantage of fun events on base or in the local area and volunteering," said Major Blackman. "If someone appears to be depressed, I would advise help by the medical group or Life Skills. There are many ways to treat depression and we are lucky to have a lot of good research on what works to help people feel better. Depression itself is by no means a career-ending disorder - better to treat it before it interferes with the quality of your life."

Following are some tips for coping with holidays from the National Mental Health Association:

-- Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for and pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities.

-- Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don't put the entire focus on just one day. Remember that it's a season of holiday sentiment, and activities can be spread out to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.

-- Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.

-- Leave "yesteryear" in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don't set yourself up in comparing today with the "good ol' days."

-- Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some of your time to help others.

-- Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping or spending time with children.

-- Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.

-- Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.

-- Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends, or contact someone you haven't heard from in a while.

-- Save time for yourself. Recharge your batteries and let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.

While the holiday blues can affect anybody, taking some of the pressure off yourself and looking out for others can help ensure we all enjoy the season.