Once upon a time this may have been “the most wonderful time of the year”. Today, it’s an increasingly frenzied retail-driven festival of repetitive music, twinkling lights, holiday gifts, excess food and alcohol, stress, anxiety and depression – and it begins earlier each year. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed or simply detached from it all, you’re not alone; anxiety and depression are quite common during the holiday season. Symptoms may include a general sense of unease or worry, lack of energy, or feeling hopeless or inadequate.
Changes in the weather, lack of adequate sunlight, the stress of family togetherness (or lack of it) can all play a part in the holiday blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder is also a possible culprit for feeling down – the lack of sunlight and shorter days can cause depression. A winter getaway to sunnier climates is not an option for everyone, so try to get outdoors for a walk or other activities during the daylight hours, even if it’s cold.
However, there may be more complex things going on. In order to cope with prolonged or sudden stress, our bodies increase or decrease production of certain hormones like cortisol, and these fluctuations can cause symptoms of anxiety and depression.
But did you know that low functioning thyroid, estrogen deficiency and depression all include symptoms like fatigue, unexplained weight gain and brain fog? In fact, many symptoms of hormone deficiencies mirror those of anxiety and depression.
If a hormone deficiency is present alongside an existing mood disorder, the correlated symptoms are naturally amplified. If we add in a testosterone deficiency, the recipient gets bonus gifts of irritation, more anxiousness, more weight gain and mood swings.
However, even the most well-adjusted people with good hormonal balance, happy lives and loving families can have mood disorders during the holidays. Remembering holidays with lost loved ones, holding on to past disappointments or simply projecting high expectations onto upcoming events can really increase your stress levels. Learn to recognize signs that you need a little extra TLC, and take some time out just for yourself. Don’t focus on trying to make everything perfect – enjoy spending time with loved ones. If the depressive mood and other symptoms persist, make an appointment to have your hormone levels and thyroid function checked by your doctor as soon as you can. Good balance is the key to living well.
If you’re feeling the holiday blues, we can help! Sally Alexander, our new Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner is available for appointments at our Scottsdale office. Call 480.619.4097.