The holiday blues are real

By Frank Lewis

The colors most closely associated with the holiday season are red and green, but there is another color that is also very real and that color is blue – as in holiday blues. Although the holidays are a time of joy for many, they can also trigger symptoms of anxiety and depression to different degrees.

One of the people who deals with the holiday blues is Tom Marsh, a licensed independent social worker, who does community behavioral health for Compass Community Health in Portsmouth.

Are the holiday blues a legitimate syndrome?

“Yes, a lot of people experience stress and anxiety over their holiday plans – the finances around paying for things,” Marsh said. “And then, just the kind of interelationship issues that people have around the holidays – the arguments, the fights and the kind of family issues that oftentimes come out this time of year that cause distress in People.”

How can people know they are starting to go into the holiday blues?

“The best and easiest thing is just to pay attention to their level of resentment they feel,” Marsh said. “In other words, if they start having a lot of thoughts like they’re unhappy. They don’t like a certain person. There’s something going wrong. Their interdialogue of resentment is your first clue, because oftentimes what people will do is try to conceal that and keep it to themselves rather than paying attention to that being the first sign that they need to do something.”

This is a natural thing and it does happen so there’s no need to panic, right?

“That’s the thing, most people overcome all their difficulty and end up having a good holiday anyway,” Marsh said. “Even though things might not have worked out perfectly and they can’t afford everything that they would like to do, they actually end up making the best of it.”

Marsh said sometimes the experience can actually be a good thing, “because people actually get together and resolve things at the holidays that they have left undone this time of year, so it can actually be redemptive.

What should people do to try to avoid letting this happen to them if they start feeling it coming on?

“I think that they should set realistic goals and make plans that are realistic for themselves and the people around them to be accepting of other people, recognizing you can’t control and change other people,” Marsh said. “to try to put their own best foot forward as much as they can.”

He said if people really struggle with the holiday blues significantly and have serious anxiety and depression, there are resouces such as the 354-1010 Hotline. If someone feels suicidal, Marsh said they should report to the nearest emergency room.

“Oftentimes they don’t really need to do that,” Marsh said. “They simply need to pray or find someone to talk to or find someplace that they can just get their feelings off their chest.”

Can people who need help contact you?

“They can call and make an appointment with us here at Compass. The number is 740-355-7102,” Marsh said.

According to an article by Mark Sichel L.C.S.W., titled “The Therapist is In,” in Psychology Today – We’re supposed to look forward to the holidays and hope that they will be a time of happiness, friendliness, fellowship, and harmony. Yet often our anticipation and excitement turns into feelings of depression, commonly called holiday blues. Symptoms can include headaches, insomnia, uneasiness, anxiety, sadness, intestinal problems, and unnecessary conflict with family and friends.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.