Yes, it is true Thanksgiving has been canceled. I just got the memo today. Well maybe not canceled but the stress of the holiday blues started the second week of November. People seem to become so focused on what they have to do – and where they have to take food they become stressed and stop enjoying the holiday to gather with family.
I have never been a holiday fan due to past adventures in my life that I continued to link to the holidays. The events had stopped happening but the emotions did not. Why? Because I did not give them permission to leave with the time that had passed.
If we actually received a notice in the mail that told us that Thanksgiving had been canceled. I wonder what the reaction would be. Relief? Confusion? Angrier? If you could stop having Thanksgiving would you really feel more relaxed, or would the emotion turn to depression and sadness?
While the holiday blues is not an official diagnosis, as a psych nurse we often find that the admissions can get especially crowded when the winter celebrations begin. As with most mental health problems, there are both biological and emotional triggers.
As I was speaking with a patient this week during the time they were eating dinner on the unit. He mentioned he hoped he was still in the hospital for Thanksgiving. I ask "Why?" He said last year when he had Thanksgiving dinner at the Salvation Army. The food was good but he did not have a bed to sleep in – inside the salvation army, after he ate. He wanted to eat a big fat meal and be able to curl up in a nice warm bed. His eyes lit up when I ask about his meal – what did they have to eat? He went into great detail of the food, dessert, rolls and some of the best tea. I smiled as I listened because I had a warm bed to sleep in – I had a warm family to sit back and enjoy – I had all the food on the table I could eat and more plus dessert. Then complain because I had eaten way to much and felt miserable. This patient was thankful for the warm food and just wished for a bed.
Most holidays as a nurse you usually have to work all of the day or at least half of one. To have the whole day off is unusual since I have worked more than I have been off in 21 years at the mental hospital. Even though I complain and whine each time I have to go in and leave my family – I always meet someone that makes me stop and appreciate being able to share the day with them.
How do I know it's winter depression?
Some symptoms are similar to those associated with other types of depression: sadness, fatigue, excessive sleepiness, social withdrawal, and trouble concentrating. But people with SAD also tend to move slowly, crave carbohydrates, and gain weight. This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Whether or not there are biological factors, the holidays are rife with psychological booby traps. Office parties can feel like just more work. Vacations can add stress if you have unresolved problems hanging over you, or if the cost is too high. Seeing more of your extended family over the holidays can, for many people, trigger unhappy or at least uncomfortable memories or behaviors. Pressure to give the right gift at the right price can be para lyzing.
Do's and Don'ts to Manage Holiday Blues
Don't drink to much alcohol
Don't overindulge in holiday food
DO be realistic what you can do and expect from yourself.
Do not spend money you do not have for gifts
I challenge you to start enjoying THIS holiday and put the others behind you.
Angela Brooks has worked in a state-funded psychiatric hospital in Kentucky for 21 years as a nurse, assisting sometimes-dangerous patients who come in shackled and cuffed. At AngelaBrook.com, she offers stories of life on the inside of a psychiatric ward, and the site, as well as her company, offers support for nurses in the mental health field and helps them bring passion into their role at work.
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