I absolutely love the holidays! I cherish visiting with family and friends, the lights, the food, the music, and sharing gifts of all kinds. But for an estimated 350 million people all over the world who suffer from depression, this time of year can trigger deep depression and feelings of sadness, loneliness and isolation.
If you are a sufferer, what can you do to beat depression at this time of year? Well, researchers are finding that there are some specific ways that people can cope with and even heal certain types of depression at the holidays. One such ‘holiday depression’ is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). For some, it starts at Thanksgiving and ends in January. Medical science estimates 5 percent of the US adult population suffers from SAD and another 20 percent have symptoms during this same period. For some people the symptoms are slight; for others, they include deep depression.
Many doctors and psychologists write about the topic of holiday depression at Christmastime. One, Dr. Kenneth Porter, in his article ‘Healing Holiday Blues,’ states that, “the healing of depression, like the healing of any emotional or physical disturbance, occurs best on four levels of our being--mind, heart, body, and spirit.”
About 10 years ago, I experienced a healing of depression that did include all four of these levels. In the summer, we moved from a large house to a smaller one. When Christmastime arrived, I found myself very quiet, sad, withdrawn, and almost non-responsive to the things I loved at this time of year. I felt no joy for the things that had once brought me great pleasure. My family was quite puzzled and didn’t know what to do for me.
Yet, similar to other times when there was a need in my family, I prayed and so did other members wanting to support me. At the same time, it occurred to us that our previous home had been one full of windows and that my office was now in a part of the house with none at all. The light was missing. Perhaps, I was suffering from SAD - letting the lack of natural sunlight create depression.
We made some changes to the house that allowed me to get more sunlight during the day. However, I think as important as these steps were, more important was the time I spent in prayer, keeping my thoughts focused on the Christ, which the Bible defines as the “light” of the world given to us by God. It’s a light we each have within that isn’t dependent on a window or a season. Eventually, my mind, heart, body and spirit were healed and I never suffered again from this even when there were periods where natural light was lacking over long periods of time.
In the rush of things, people often forget that consecrated prayer or even coming together with a faith community may be an answer to their holiday sadness. In the book of Psalms, David wrote: “Why are you downcast, O my Soul, Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
So, if you are prone to sadness or depression during the holidays or at any time, be encouraged! There are steps you can take to find relief. And, they are as close as your own thoughts or as far away as a nearby house of worship.
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Debra Chew writes about the connection between thought, spirituality and health. She has been published in the chattanoogan.com, Memphis Commercial Appeal, and in the UK. She is also the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science for TN. You can contact her at email@example.com.