Holiday season is upon us, this brings feelings of excitement, stress, and exhaustion. A time when we’re managing our daily schedules, increased workload, while preparing to gather with family and friends. We hope this is a joyous time, but it can take a toll on us physically, mentally and emotionally. Some of us may experience an even harder time managing the change of season and the holiday hustle. These roller coaster of emotions can cause major breakdowns making it important to distinguish whether we are experiencing a case of the "Holiday Blues" or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is the difference between the “holiday blues” and Seasonal Affective Disorder? The holiday blues are temporary feelings of sadness or anxiety that occur due to stress or triggered memories during the holiday season (Greenstein, 2015). While 64% of people surveyed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (2015) say they are affected by the holiday blues, these feeling eventually pass. Others do not have this luxury. When the holiday blues seem to be more extreme and consistent, there could be a larger problem at hand. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition marked by a seasonal pattern of serious symptoms that include sadness, anxiety, guilt, fatigue and irritability (Rohan & Rough, 2017). In the US, about 5% of individuals experience SAD and report symptoms lasting for up to 40% of the year (Kurlansik & Ibay, 2013). Both of these conditions effect the way one experiences the holiday season; therefore we should increase our self-care and take time to prevent the onset of symptoms.
You might have heard of the term mindfulness, which has been shown to improve our emotional wellness. Mindfulness refers to a psychological state of awareness or “moment-to-moment awareness” of one’s experiences without judgment (David & Hayes, 2011). While mindfulness has many positive benefits, the ones that are most important when preventing holiday blues and SAD are the decrease in emotional reactivity and stress. Mindfulness is shown to help regulate emotions in the brain through mindful meditation (David & Hayes, 2011). This directly reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. Relative to mindful meditation, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy helps reduce stress through lessened anxiety, depression and somatic distress (David & Hayes, 2011). Overall, being psychologically aware of yourself enhances your self-control and emotional stability.
Mindfulness helps to prevent the onset of holiday blues and SAD by reshaping our brain! Mindful practices work to heal damage that is seen in the anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus for individuals who suffer from depression or anxiety or those that make rash decisions (Fox et al., 2014). This physical reshaping of the brain reduces stress and anxiety, helping us monitor emotions that arise as the holiday season approaches. To learn more about specific ways to mindfully navigate your holiday season try implementing our TOPPSTips below:
Mindful Miles. Physical activity can help relax your mind, releasing negative energy and stress. While walking or jogging, focus on your breathing and the path in front of you. Allow yourself to let go of any tension and be present in the moment of your exercise. #MindfulMiles
Crafty Connection. Art, Music, or Dance is a great away to heighten your senses, alleviate stress, and increase emotional connection. Crafting with others will also improve your emotional mindset. Try making holiday decorations and listening to music together.
Triple Threat Breathing. Practice intentionally breathing. Bring focus and awareness to your breath, being calm and keen on your surroundings to ground you and embrace the moment.
Disengage to Engage. Turn off, tuck away, or tune out the distracting nuances of social media, emails, TV and more. Enjoy the quiet, or silly chatter of those around you. Be curious and content with your surroundings.
Tisk-Task To Do’s. Multitasking causes us to divide our attention and lack awareness of our own consciousness. Make a list and focus on completing one To Do item at a time.
Here at TOPPS we believe in a Balanced Mind, Balanced Body. One way to assist you in developing this goal is to be more mindful. Practice our mindfulness TOPPSTips to increase your emotional wellbeing and connectivity to others. While these tips are useful, it takes time and energy to implement daily. If you find that you are unable to manage your emotions and may need more assistance please visit our website to learn more about services we offer. Have a mindful holiday season from us at TOPPS!
Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J. A. (2011). What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness? A Practice Review of Psychotherapy-Related Research. American Psychological Association, 48(2), pp. 198 208. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/pst-48-2-198.pdf
Fox, K. C. R., Nijeboer, S., Dixon, M. L., Floman, J. L., Ellamil, M., Rumak, S. P., Sedlmeier, P., & Christoff, K. (2014). Is Meditation Associated with Altered Brain Structure? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Morphometric Neuroimaging in Meditation Practitioners. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 43, pp. 48-73. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763414000724?via%3Dihub
Greenstein, L. (2015, November 19). Tips for Managing the Holiday Blues [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2015/Tips-for-Managing-the-Holiday-Blues
Kurlansik, S. L., & Ibay, A. D. (2013). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Indian Journal of Clinical Practice, 24(7), pp. 607-610. Retrieved from http://medind.nic.in/iaa/t13/i12/iaat13i12p607.pdf
Rohan, K. J., & Rough, J. N. (2017). Seasonal Affective Disorder. In The Oxford Handbook of Mood Disorders (pp. 254-265). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.