This week as I ran errands in various supermarkets and department stores, Christmas music wafted down from the speakers and into the ears of shoppers scurrying up and down the aisles. While sifting through my coupons in the cereal aisle, Andy Williams began to croon about The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
It’s the hap-happiest season of all.
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call,
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
For many women, these lyrics do not accurately reflect their feelings during the holiday season. While some women are enjoying the holiday season with festive parties, shopping sprees, and elaborate meals, other women are unable to find joy because they’re battling seasonal depression.
What is seasonal depression?
Seasonal depression, officially known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, is a type of depression that usually surfaces at the same time each year. Those who struggle with SAD often notice an onset during the winter months as hours of daylight decrease and temperatures drop. Once spring arrives, symptoms fade as hours of daylight increase and temperatures rise.
What are the symptoms of seasonal depression?
- lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- change in eating habits
- social withdrawal
- changes in weight
- feelings of hopelessness
- difficulty concentrating
- trouble sleeping
What are the causes of seasonal depression?
Many psychology experts attribute seasonal depression to unbalanced levels of serotonin and melatonin, hormones that regulate sleep cycles and influence mood. In addition to hormonal issues, some women find themselves depressed this time of year for other reasons as well.
- Limited finances: The sagging economy and tight budgets can make it hard to purchase holiday gifts and goods.
- Lack of sunlight: The shorter hours of daylight often lead to feelings of hopelessness.
- Loss of a loved one: An empty spot at the holiday table can cause feelings of loss to resurface.
- Conflicts with family members: Unresolved issues among family members are often exacerbated as family gathers during the holiday season.
- Holiday preparations: The pressure to create the “perfect” holiday with entertaining and gifts is often too much to bear.
How can you help a loved one cope with seasonal depression?
- Acknowledge your loved one’s feelings of depression. If your loved one has confided in you, don’t brush aside her admission of depression. It likely has taken a great deal of courage for her to tell you about her situation. If you suspect a loved one is depressed but she has not told you so, express your concern in a loving, non-accusatory manner. Many women are hesitant to let others know they are battling depression because they are embarrassed or do not want to be seen as weak or incompetent.
- Encourage her to find help. A woman trying to cope with seasonal depression may often feel hopeless. She may think that her situation will never change and may conclude that seeking help is useless. Encourage her to talk to her doctor about how she’s feeling. The doctor can refer her to a qualified mental health professional.
- Be a patient listener. Sometimes your loved one simply needs a listening ear. If your loved one opens up to you, allow her to talk without interruption. Do not interject with questions, personal opinions, or unsolicited advice. Patient listening lets your loved one know that you are interested in what she has to say and demonstrates that you take her situation seriously.
- Be supportive. You may be able to lighten your loved one’s load by making a meal for her family, accompanying her to a doctor’s visit, or caring for her children for a few hours. If you tell your loved one you will be there for her, follow through. If you don’t keep your word, your loved one may feel rejected and lose trust in you.
Depression is a difficult hardship many women face at this time of year. However, your loved one does not have to face the depression alone. God has called loving family members and friends like you to support a woman in need. Jesus reminded us of the importance of caring for those in need when he spoke these words:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40 NIV)
As you pray for your loved one, ask God to show you how you can help.