The arrival of festivities does not always bring joy and serenity along, which is what we wish each other when we meet. The emotions related to the holidays, particularly those at the end of the year, can be unpleasant. Stress, family conflicts, alcohol abuse and domestic violence grow, as much as the feeling of loneliness, which amplifies during this time of the year. This phenomenon is called “Christmas Blues”, which we could define as “Christmas depression”.
Let’s immediately bust the myth of the rise of suicides in this specific period. In fact, according to epidemiological studies, there is not a peak of suicides during festivities. On the contrary, it seems that the month with the smaller number of suicides is exactly December. Nonetheless, this “sub-threshold depression”, as defined by Bernardo Carpiniello (Former president of the Italian Psychiatric Society), is real. Temporary, but present.
Christmas Blues is characterised by anxiety, insomnia, anhedonia, negative thoughts and a generally downward tending mood. This is caused by multiple factors such as economical struggles, family reunions with relatives we do not like, the pressure of making gifts, having lunch or dinner at a week’s distance, the long awaited (and forced) end of the year party. The stress weakens the immune system and increase the risk of hearth disease, tumour or ictus.
As expected as they seem, all these elements have an influence on all of us, whether it is more or less pronounced. If we add to the mix the lesser solar exposure due to the shorter days, causing a smaller amount of serotonin being produced, we can realize how it is that stress augments. Furthermore, there are the new year’s resolutions, which can already be failed in a couple of weeks’ time. This can also lead to a further state called Monday Blues. Well, now we have a full picture.
It all seems so negative. Festivities should be time for relax, strengthen our bonds and savour life’s best moments. What do we do?
First, if we worry about our finances, it is better to plan the purchases in advance before ending up stuck at the last minute. Avoiding the use of alcohol and tobacco reduces the sense of loneliness and inadequacy which is amplified by these substances. Situations which can cause discomfort, awkwardness and bad mood should also be avoided.
It is also important to improve the ability to cope with stressing situations and better comprehend our own emotions, by also accepting the annoying ones. It is furthermore crucial keeping the daily routine and to leave our pride aside and ask for help if we cannot cope with the situation.
Doc. Manuel Nicolè
Psychologist Psychotherapist Consultant Sexologist