Limbic Medical

Is Holiday Depression Stealing Your Joy?

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Publish date

12/14/2023

Though the holidays are celebrated as a time of joy, warmth, and togetherness, your experience may not match the cheery images shown in movies and advertisements. Depression can make an already difficult time even more difficult, as the thought of facing office parties, family gatherings, and shopping can feel overwhelming. Is holiday depression something you just have to put up with? Or is there a way to enjoy the season without suffering from depression?

How Common is Seasonal Depression?

Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD, impacts about 5 percent of adults.1 The disorder is characterized by feelings of sadness and depression coinciding with the shorter days and colder temperatures of the winter season.

But seasonal depression is only part of the picture. A 2021 survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that 64% of people struggling with mental illness said the holiday season actually makes their mental health worse.2

In another survey, 3 in 5 Americans said their mental health declines during the holidays.3 Clearly there is something about the holiday season that contributes to poor mental health.

Why Does Depression Flare Over the Holidays?

Stress is a known contributing factor to depression.4 At any time – not just during the holidays – stress can spiral into depression, or exacerbate a pre-existing case of depression. Unfortunately, stress during the holiday season is abundant. Stress from hosting or attending holiday events, financial concerns from gift buying, or tight end-of-year deadlines at work can all build up and cause a downward spiral into depression.

The holiday season often presents a stark contrast between our expectations and reality, leading to dissatisfaction and negative self-talk. The contrast between our personal emotions and the societal expectation of joy can produce bitter feelings, further crowding out joy. In fact, social comparison plays a significant role in diminishing happiness during the holidays.

“The image that’s been created of the holiday season is of it being fun, of holiday spirit sprinkled with moments of enjoyment and bliss, and that becomes the standard we tend to compare ourselves to,” says Dr. Emanuel Maidenberg, an associate clinical professor with the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.5 “This becomes potentially quite stressful, because invariably we all go through stressful times and moments during the holidays.”

The emphasis on family and togetherness can also contribute to depression for those who are estranged from their families or who have experienced the death of a family member. The holidays often magnify feelings of grief and make the absence of loved ones impossible to ignore.

How to Cope With Holiday Depression

If your holiday feels less than merry, you may be dealing with a case of holiday depression. Fortunately, there are several effective steps you can take to improve your mental health.

At Limbic Medical, we pursue a functional medicine approach, which is ideal for treating conditions such as holiday depression. Functional medicine considers a broad range of causal factors with impacts on multiple body systems in diagnosing and treating mental and physical disorders. Our integrative approach includes psychedelic treatments, such as ketamine, and functional medicine approaches for a whole-body approach that delivers superior outcomes.

Functional medicine takes into consideration a broad range of issues such as changes in diet and exercise, stress levels, sleeping patterns, and environmental factors – areas which are all likely to be disrupted during a busy holiday season. Functional medicine’s whole health, multi-system approach to patient health provides a more comprehensive diagnosis and a broader range of treatment options than is available from other medical disciplines.

To feel better this holiday season, pay particular attention to these areas:

Diet

The food we eat plays a direct role in our health, our mental well-being, and how our bodies perform. By eating a proper diet filled with nutritious food that supports body functions, you create a strong base for building mental and physical health. Maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge with so many tempting treats around, but will dramatically improve the way you feel.

Does that mean you can’t enjoy any treats during the holidays? No, of course not. The key is to remember to eat healthy regularly with the occasional treat or indulgence during special occasions, rather than the other way around. That way you can still enjoy holiday events without compromising your health.

Dr. Atoian will provide you with an excellent care plan that incorporates a healthy diet as a core part of treatment. As part of our evaluation, we may identify specific nutrient deficiencies that are impacting your mood and energy levels and create a customized nutrition plan that addresses these deficiencies.

Sleep Changes

Between late-night parties and early morning shopping sprees, the holidays are full of disruptions to normal sleep patterns. Those disruptions can spell trouble for feeling and functioning our best. Our bodies follow a natural cycle of sleep and rest that regulates our mood, hormones, and other body processes. When that cycle is disrupted, we feel chronically tired and lack energy.

Over time, these disruptions to our natural rhythm of sleep can lead to depression. At Limbic Medical, we assess the quality and quantity of sleep you receive as part of our diagnosis, with prescribed sleep recommendations as part of an overall care plan.

While it may be difficult to maintain a sound sleep schedule during the busy holiday season, prioritizing restorative, healthy sleep is essential to overcoming seasonal and holiday depression.

Unhealthy Holiday Patterns

For many of us, holidays carry the baggage of unhappy memories, lost loved ones, or past trauma. The holiday season with its traditions and rituals can become associated with negative emotions and behavior patterns, with the traditions serving to lock in the negative emotions.

If you find yourself adhering to unhealthy practices out of a sense of tradition rather than a sense of joy and fulfillment, don’t be afraid to substitute a new tradition that helps you find meaning.

Ketamine Treatment for Holiday Depression

If you are suffering from seasonal depression, holiday depression, or other form of depression, ketamine treatment at Limbic Medical can help. Ketamine is a rapid-acting, highly effective depression treatment that addresses multiple root cause issues simultaneously – making it an ideal treatment for conditions such as seasonal and holiday depression.

Ketamine is an FDA-approved anesthetic with dissociative properties that produce a remarkable healing treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mood disorders. Research studies and in-clinic practice demonstrate ketamine’s effectiveness at alleviating various types of depression.6

If you find yourself struggling with depression – seasonal or otherwise – ketamine treatment at Limbic Medical can give you the relief and recovery you need. Limbic Medical is one of the best functional medicine clinics in Los Angeles. We can provide you with the tools and treatment plan you need to overcome depression, regain energy, and improve mood and function. Contact us today to learn more.

Sources:

  1. “Psychiatry.org – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” American Psychiatric Association.
  2. Gillison, H. “The Most Difficult Time of The Year: Mental Health During the Holidays.” NAMI, 20 December 2021.
  3. “Holiday 2021 Stress Report: Increase in Anxiety, Depression & COVID-related Stress.” Sesame.
  4. Boyes, Alice. “Why Stress Turns Into Depression.” Psychology Today, 7 March 2013
  5. Cohen, Sandy, and Joshua Sudock. “Is the joyous holiday season giving you the blues?” UCLA Health, 16 November 2022
  6. “The effects of ketamine on typical and atypical depressive symptoms.” NCBI, 6 August 2020

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