It’s the holiday season once again, and while some people are gearing up to enjoy the holidays with their families and friends, others may have a harder time finding holiday joy.
Mental Health America estimates that 5% of Americans experience seasonal depression. Sometimes referred to as “the holiday blues,” it is a type of depression triggered by the change in season and commonly affects people from late fall to early winter.
Symptoms can include fatigue, social withdrawal, less interest in daily activities, changes in appetite and even hopelessness.
According to Charlotte-based therapist Alicia Tetteh of Building Endurance PLLC, it’s common for the mental health field to see a big influx of requests for support just before and right after the holidays. She says many people tend to “grin and bear it” through the holiday season.
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“People grieve more during the holidays,” said Tetteh, who has been a practicing therapist for 10 years. Tetteh explained that the holidays could be a reminder of family members who have passed away or are not present to celebrate.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, Tetteh shared tips with QCity Metro on how to navigate “the holiday blues.”
Assess and set boundaries
Celebrating the holidays with family and friends can be a stressful undertaking for many reasons. One way to prepare for possible emotional stress is to set boundaries.
Tetteh shared that sometimes family members can be harshly critical or judge personal aspects of each other’s lives, like a person’s parenting skills.
An example of setting a boundary could be to not engage with loved ones who are critical or create discomfort.
She emphasized the importance of not visiting family out of obligation. This can help limit emotional distress that might come along with those interactions.
Tetteh said it is important to “budget” mental health the same way one might budget finances.
One way this can be done is by monitoring the intake of things like social media use.
Seeing people enjoy the holidays through posts online or consuming content of people who might not enjoy the holidays can both be emotionally triggering.
Taking in emotional stressors can lead to the holiday blues and limiting time spent on social media can help limit exposure to such triggers.
Examine support system
Tetteh said that it is important to identify what one’s support system looks like going into the holidays.
Taking inventory of who to call, spend time with, or otherwise be able to connect with is a great benefit to navigating seasonal depression.
Having a therapist can also help during seasonal depression.
Tetteh noted that Black people sometimes hesitate to seek professional mental health support because of historical treatment and a fear of being judged.
And while roughly only 4% of mental health professionals are Black, there are a number of them in the Charlotte area and, like Tetteh, are open to supporting.