Dealing with Emotions During the Holidays


It’s that wonderful time of the year for decorating homes with bright lights, buying gifts for loved ones, baking delicious Christmas cookies and scheduling all those Christmas gatherings with family and friends. With all the excitement, it’s natural to feel stressed, but if you feel like you just got ran over by a reindeer, you may have a condition called clinical depression.

We all have experienced emotions of fear, sadness and anger. These are normal reactions to difficult times in life and usually pass with a little time. When a person has clinical depression, it interferes with daily life and normal functioning. It can cause pain for both the person with depression and those who care about him or her. Clinical depression is a real illness—not Christmas stress or a sign of a person’s weakness. You simply can’t “snap out of” clinical depression which means most people with this condition need medical treatment to get better.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), depression has many symptoms, including physical ones. If you have been experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression. Symptoms include persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood; feelings of hopelessness, pessimism; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness; loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities; decreased energy, fatigue; difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions; difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping; appetite and/or weight changes; thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts; restlessness, irritability and persistent physical symptoms.

“If you are experiencing any symptoms of depression, it’s important to see your healthcare provider right away,” said Dr. Elizabeth Douglas, board certified in family medicine at Middlesboro ARH. “Why suffer when there is medical treatment available.”

NIH states that emotional stress (not clinical depression) usually occurs in situations people consider difficult or challenging. For example, if you consider decorating the family Christmas tree challenging, either recruit others to help or decorate the tree in stages—set up the tree and check the lights one day, sort through the ornaments another day and so on. When you release yourself from that stress, you will enjoy the experience more.

Also a person's attitude can influence whether or not a situation or emotion is stressful.  If you tend to have a negative attitude about the holidays and act more like a Scrooge than a Santa, your bah humbug attitude is only going to bring you down.

“Having a positive attitude during the holidays helps manage stress levels,” said Douglas. “If you will take a deep breath and focus on the joy of Christmas, you will increase your holiday cheer.”

However, if you still find yourself struggling with holiday stress, a recommended stress buster is laughter. For decades numerous studies have been conducted on the mental and physical benefits of laughter.

“You may have heard that laughter is the best medicine,” stated Douglas. “Laughter actually enhances your intake of oxygen, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles and increases the endorphins released by your brain. Laughing the stress away definitely will improve your holiday.”

Want to lower your stress and get the laughter started?  Listen to silly Christmas songs with barking dogs or singing chipmunks or watch funny movies about decking houses with thousands of blinking lights or cartoons with crazy reindeers gone wild. 

As Christmas approaches, choose “happiness” over sadness. Embrace your inner child and experience the joy, the magic and the blessings of Christmas.


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