November 2015 – Nelson House, Manitoba

The holiday season is filled with celebrations, gatherings and cheer. But for some people, this time of the year can be bring on anxiety, loneliness, feelings of depression and sometimesthoughts of suicide.

Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety of the holiday season – especially during the months of November, December and into January may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment. The most common stressors were feelings of loneliness and “being without a family.”

Christmas time and the New Year months are a season when people have a very difficult time as they are feeling sorry for themselves or may have low self-esteem. Many feel sad or depressed
because they can’t afford to buy presents for family members or are dealing with loss, sickness or trauma.

Contrary to popular belief, December actually has the fewest suicide attempts of any month of the year. While it’s true that suicide attempts tend to drop off just before and during the
holidays, there is a significant increase in suicide rates following Christmas – a 40 percent uptick, according to studies.

One of the best things a person can do, however, is to reach out to others despite how difficult it may seem. It is important to know that there are families and friends that care and many
people that want to help each other.

Grieving During the Holidays

For many people, holidays are a painful reminder of what once was. This is especially true for people who have experienced a significant loss such as the death of a spouse, a break-up or
other trauma or loss. For these people, it is important to handle expectations. When envisioning the holidays after a loss, a person should try to include both the highs and lows in their
thoughts. Don’t let anyone put a time limit on your broken heart. Try to participate in “comforting experiences” such as going for a walk, eating well, visiting friends, and keeping a routine sleep schedule. People going through this type of grieving shouldn’t feel ashamed.

Dealing with Holiday Depression

For those who are dealing with sad or difficult feelings of loss or depression, there are several other ways to stave off the holiday blues including:

Begin a new tradition.

    Plan an outing with family or friends, a trip or an outdoor experience, instead of spending the holidays at home.

Don’t succumb to holiday pressures. Feel free to leave an event if you aren’t comfortable and be willing to tell others, “I’m not up for this right now.”

Volunteer. Work at a soup kitchen, organize a gift drive or simply help the neighbour dig the snow out of his driveway.

Get back to nature. Going for a walk outside or in the woods helps many people who are feeling overwhelmed to feel better.

Avoid alcohol or drugs. Many substances can actually increase feelings of depression or sadness. Although you may think you are taking them to uplift your spirits, the opposite is actually happening and can add to the sadness.

Suicide Risk

If your feelings of sadness during the holidays are accompanied by suicidal thoughts, call for help at the RCMP 204-484-2288, immediately proceed to a hospital emergency room, or contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-877-435-7170.

The Nelson House Medicine Lodge also offers intake programs for Alcohol and Drug addiction treatment and awareness. Please contact (204) 484-2256 for information.