Depression During The Holidays

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The incidence of depression increases during the Holidays, and also just after it. This is not a problem that happens only with immigrants, but there are some specific circumstances, such as, distance from home and family members, cultural differences in celebrating the Holidays, lack of a support system, and decrease of light during the days, that affect immigrants in a different dimension, if compared to the people who are local from a specific country or region.

In a study published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2005, the authors mentioned that the separation between mothers and children, because of immigration, increased the risk of depression among Latinas.  They highlighted the importance that health and mental health professionals pay close attention to the patients’ stories about their family members, especially the ones that are far from them.  Due to the fact that women have been more employable, several mothers come to the United States to work for periods of time, with the objective to bring their children to join them in the future. The Holiday Season is especially difficult for mothers who are alone.

We are bombarded with images of “happy families” celebrating Christmas on pictures at malls and in commercials, usually sharing expensive presents, drinking and eating a lot. These images create in our brain the idea of a perfect family, without conflicts.  It is normal to feel frustrated when you realize that your family is far from you or that you have a family, in which conflict is expected.  We are strongly manipulated by the marketing strategies for Christmas sales, and sometimes we are not even aware of it. We will probably feel the effect of this manipulation only later, usually when we get the bill of our credit card.

My three-year old daughter asked me to take a picture of a toy that she wants for Christmas. Her idea is to put it in an envelope with a letter to Santa, so he will know exactly what she wants. I know that she does not understand the concept of Christmas yet, but I am sure that she has a clear understanding of the concept of buying. She rarely watches TV, but just a few minutes on the weekend was enough for her to ask me to buy two toys for her. She knew the names and properties of them perfectly. It is unbelievable how much TV influences our kids and ourselves in this pressure for consumption.

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December is the month when people usually start to evaluate their accomplishments throughout the year. When they realize that they have not accomplished their goals, it generates a feeling of frustration, hopeless and sadness. It is a time that most people think about family and friends gathering. It is particularly difficult for people whose family members and best friends are not close to them.

Here are some tips to avoid depression during the Holidays:

• Set realistic goals for yourself. Do not have a list of 20 items if you can only accomplish 10 of them. Prioritize what is more important.
• Establish how much you can spend before going shopping. Be fare to yourself. Do not work extensively to achieve unrealistic expectations. Financial stress is another cause of depression.
• Do not forget about your personal and family needs. Respect your body and emotions. Relax!
• Save your energy! Do not spend all in one day.
• Avoid living in the past or future. Enjoy here and now!
• Volunteer if you are alone. You will be able to share your energy with someone else and also to feel better.
• Avoid excessive spending, drinking and eating.
• Become aware of all the pressures that are imposed on us and our kids by the society.

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Take a deep breath, and feel the real joy of love and happiness! That is what the Holiday Season should be all about!

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