Battling holiday fatigue

11/17/2008 by:

Forget having the perfect holiday. That’s the advice Dale Archer, Jr., MD, is giving this year.

“As a country, we’ve been through difficult times this year. Economic instability, the long election, surging gas prices and the housing crisis has taken its toll on our ability to cope. Preparing for the holidays in the traditional way may be more than people are able to do this year.”

Over 17 million Americans battle with depression each year, and thousands of people deal with feeling blue during the holidays. Once the stress of the season is over, they recover. It doesn’t necessarily turn into full-blown depression, but holiday blues make getting through the holiday season difficult. Fatigue and anxiety are some of the most common symptoms; others include frequent headaches and feeling overwhelmed throughout the holiday season.

Social anxiety can play a role in the holiday blues. For those who don’t relish being in crowds, holiday parties may only cause anxiety, not holiday cheer. “The holidays can still be a joyous time, but there’s nothing wrong with scaling back if that would help reduce your stress level. For people who are prone to holiday blues, this may be the year to streamline the festivities,” said Dr. Archer.

Holiday blues can affect both men and women, old and young. People who don’t have a strong support system of friends and family, such as the elderly, may be especially susceptible to holiday blues. Those who have suffered the loss of a loved one may feel melancholy during the holidays because of the emphasis on family gatherings.

Movies and television programs portray the holidays as a seemingly perfect season, complete with beautifully decorated homes, families re-united and a delicious dinner enjoyed by everyone. For those who set this as their standard, the stress can be unbearable. Other stressful triggers include: financial constraints, loved ones who have passed on, friends who live far away, relatives who demand too much, having to entertain house guests for days at a time and, simply, fatigue.

Finances are another common trigger. Overspending during the holidays on gifts, food, entertainment and travel can increase stress while trying to make ends meet. Spending too much can cause a downward spiral of emotions that continues until the bills are paid. Too many people get into debt because of holiday spending. The physical demands of shopping, entertaining, attending social gatherings and preparing holiday meals are other triggers for many people.

“If you find yourself identifying with several of these triggers and feelings, make a conscious decision to simplify this holiday season. Plan the kind of holiday you would enjoy. If you have children at home or other family members who depend on you to ‘make the holiday’, express your feelings to them and get their input on how this holiday can be enjoyable for everyone, including you,” he said.



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