Christmas puts us in front of a mix of emotions: on the one hand positive feelings of joy and sharing and on the other, stress, melancholy, sadness can occur, anxiety also due to restrictions a cause of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The holiday season, as well as holidays in general, have always had a certain impact on people's lives. If for some this time of the year represents a way to switch off, travel, recharge or spend more time with friends and family, for others it represents a difficult time to avoid, made up of budgets, family obligations, anxieties and expectations that in some occasions generate feelings of sadness and discomfort, which are difficult to understand and manage. These are feelings that strain our mood. This condition has a name, it is called Christmas Blues, the so-called Christmas depression, and it seems to be a very widespread phenomenon.
To find out more, we interviewed Dr. Sabrina Suma, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist in Dubai.
What is the Christmas blues?
Christmas blues or melancholy of Christmas is a real condition of malaise that appears with the onset of the Christmas atmosphere. It is a transitory subclinical phenomenon that tends to fade and disappear immediately after the holidays.
What if this doesn't happen?
In most cases, not only the Christmas blues but the Holidays blues in general return after the holiday is over. If this feeling of sadness continues to be with us even after holidays and our mood remains heavy and melancholy for a long time, it is time to talk to the specialist to investigate the causes of the malaise.
What are the factors that can cause the Christmas blues?
The Christmas blues is characterized by the appearance of a sudden state of sadness and annoyance which is expressed through a lowering of the mood, the appearance of a sort of anxiety mixed with stress and the constant presence of irritability and demotivation.
We psychologists jokingly call it the Grinch syndrome, but in scientific parlance it is known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), in English Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Christmans blues: symptoms
"The symptoms of the Christmas blues can vary from person to person - explains Dr. Suma - but in principle they are the same: sadness, irritation, insomnia, hyperphagia with a particular weakness for carbohydrates, fatigue and a strange sense of intolerance for those who expect Christmas with anxiety and trepidation. A kind of desire to go into hibernation to let yourself be awakened at the end of the party.
Is Christmans Blues a real depression?
I would not speak of real depression but of a usually transient condition, which in recent years has unfortunately been further complicated and exacerbated by the pandemic situation which, with uncertainties and restrictions, has put even the most optimistic and carefree souls to the test.
What are the causes of the Christmas blues?
Christmas is not only a religious or commercial event, it also has a strong cultural and psychosocial component. Emile Durkheim defines it as a moment of "collective effervescence" from which it is difficult to escape: it is a real moment of rebirth and evocation of past and shared moments, a moment in which everyone is expected to be better, happier and more generous .
Not everyone is waiting for this time of year and not because they are less good and generous, but because they live in cognitive and emotional dissonance with Christmas.
What are the categories most at risk?
There is actually no specific category. Anyone living in emotional dissonance with this period is at risk, and the elderly and people living alone are the most disadvantaged.
Then there are the people who, due to infections and restrictions, have to spend Christmas in isolation for a forced choice. Or people who have recently suffered a serious personal or job loss. In these cases, care must be taken because the chances of a seasonal disorder turning into depression become more important.
How can we avoid and / or overcome this condition of Christmas melancholy?
There are many things we can actually do to have the right mindset and survive the melancholy of Christmas unscathed.
My recommendations are:
- Using our time well. How we use our time can make a difference. Taking the luxury of taking care of us if needed, even at the cost of saying no or sorry. Spending time alone can be regenerative, being alone is not always synonymous with loneliness. For example, we can start by giving ourselves a gift, focusing on the positive things in life, even the smallest ones. Sometimes I recommend to my patients to build a small advent calendar to attach to the fridge, where the boxes turn into empty spaces to be filled with motivational phrases that resemble us or that have strong personal resonances. Nice thoughts, things that have given us joy during the day or names of people dear to us or with whom we have spent or would like to spend time, regardless of the Christmas period.
- Living in the present, without ruminating about what it should have been like or what we should have done. This helps build a secure ground and cultivate a healthy sense of gratitude that is useful and necessary in every day of our life. Let's not forget that the word Christmas means “birth”: let's use this moment to find a new way to approach life.
- Let's adapt to new traditions, following the messages that come from our body and not from the media channels. If, on the other hand, we realize that we are spending too much time in solitude and this makes us feel bad, let's remember that the Christmas period offers many opportunities: from technology to social commitment. As Adler understood, one of the fathers of holistic psychology and medicine who encouraged his depressed patients to volunteer, caring for others in distress makes us feel good, creates important and meaningful connections. It relieves us of counterproductive and depressive dynamics. Having quality, healthy relationships protects our mental health and helps us feel alive.
- Limit the use of alcoholic beverages outside parties and celebrations. Drinking too much can further affect our mood and amplify existing negative and melancholy feelings.
- Sleep-wake balance
- To avoid eating too much at any occasion
Regular and healthy eating is important for health. We leave the role of "cheat days".
Finding yourself overweight or out of shape at the ultimate party could fuel unnecessary guilt and become another reason to feel depressed and unmotivated.