Mason Experts Offer Tips for the Holiday Season: Dealing with Depression and Stress

Posted: December 16, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lori Jennings

The holiday season is often associated with joy, family and parties. But for some, it is a time for reflection on past failures, anxiety about an uncertain future and unrealistic expectations and fear.

Many factors can cause holiday depression, including stress, fatigue, financial constraints and the inability to be with one’s family and friends. After Jan. 1, even more people experience postholiday sadness resulting from disappointments during the preceding months compounded with fatigue and stress.

James Goodlett McDaniel, assistant professor in George Mason’s newly named College of Health and Human Services, has some tips for people as the holiday season approaches:

  • Use time wisely. Sleep in when possible. Drink plenty of fluids.

  • Lower your expectations. Being kind, attentive and present for family is a gift.
  • Feeling sad or lonely will not change because it is a holiday. Use the time with family and friends to talk about how you are changing and how that feels.
  • Look forward to the changes that the new year can bring. Without uncertainty there is no possibility.
  • Start a new holiday tradition for your family.
  • Reconnect with family and friends who are nurturing and kind. Be gentle to others.
  • Use time at home to think of yourself as well as others. New roles that can be useful for a lifetime are often developed during holidays.
  • Holiday activities are often free. Chauffeur your family to see the holiday lights. Create a virtual holiday tour of a family member’s favorite places.
  • Decreased sunlight can cause seasonal affective disorder. Sun “phototherapy” can be used in the workplace as well as the home. Special full-spectrum lighting is available for lamps and florescent fixtures when natural sun is not available.
  • Remember that holiday depression is self-limiting and will improve with rest, social contact and good health habits. If symptoms worsen, feelings of worthlessness are noted or self-destructive thoughts are present, seek assistance from a professional mental health provider.

Write to at