Published in the Ashburn Patch, December 23, 2010

By: Taghrid Barron

How to Beat the Holiday Blues

If you’re suffering from depression, grieving the loss of a loved one or coping with a recent divorce, the holidays can be anything but happy. People struggling with a loss are especially vulnerable to feelings of depression during the holidays, according to Dr. Michael Oberschneider, director of Ashburn Psychological and Psychiatric Services and a clinical psychologist.

“These are the people that I worry about the most,” Oberschneider said. “They are most vulnerable around the holidays because of the nature of their situation … they want to reflect and remember. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, but when you experience a loss, nostalgia can quickly become melancholia and take you to a very, sad place.”

Here are some of Dr. Oberschneider’s tips on how to cope, if you’re grieving a loss of some sort during the holidays:

  • Accept where you are in the grieving process
  • Don’t drink alcohol–it’s a depressant
  • Don’t spend a lot of time alone. Spend time with loved ones or friends. If you know you’re going to be off of work for a week, keep busy. Plan a trip to the store or a museum and have your social calendar filled with activities
  • Shift your mindset by volunteering to help someone else. “Get out of your own mindset or funk by volunteering. Caring for or giving to others is very rewarding and increases the likelihood of feeling good about yourself and feeling appreciated,” Oberschneider said.

There’s no shame in getting some extra support from a counselor if you need it, Oberschneider said. People have a lot of misconceptions about getting therapy. It isn’t just for people with mental health problems, and it doesn’t have to take years, he said. You can go to a therapist for four or five sessions to help you process your feelings and get some closure or get a little extra support during a particularly difficult time, he said.

“The majority of people that go to a counselor aren’t mentally ill,” he said. “They are fully or partially functional. There’s just some aspect of their life that hasn’t worked out well.”

If you develop these classic symptoms of depression, definitely seek help.

  • Sleeping too much
  • Lack of interest in enjoyable activities
  • Feeling most comfortable when you are dwelling on feelings of pain or a problem
  • Not sleeping well
  • Feeling restless or anxious
  • Feeling overwhelmed and not able to manage your time well
  • If friends and family notice a shift in your personality
  • If you can’t manage your behavior or thoughts

Here’s to a happy and mentally healthy holiday!