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Holidays, Winter, and Depression

Holiday lights are strung around a snowy tree. Asset taken for News Center article.

For many people, the winter holiday season is a joyous time filled with family, friends and great food. But for some – it can be quite the opposite – causing stress, sadness and even depression.

Let’s take a minute to discuss what causes it and what you can do to prevent it.

  • What is it about winter that causes depression?  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically occurs during fall and winter months. Common symptoms are mood swings, lack of energy and other signs of depression. Changes in the season can disrupt the balance of melatonin levels, which affects both sleep and mood. And when it’s cold and dark, you tend to stay indoors. This increases isolation and decreases the opportunity to share enjoyable activities which further contributes to sadness and depression.
  • Holidays are supposed to be happy, why do some get depressed?
    Feeling pressure from others, yourself, or your bank account can trigger an emotional roller coaster. These situations are all too common as we purchase expensive gifts, plan or host holiday events and spend time with extended family.Additionally, if you’ve been separated from loved ones by distance, divorce or death the holidays can elicit strong emotions and episodes of depression.
  • What are some ways to cope?
    Some ways to improve a depressed mood are simple and ones you can start today.

    • Eat a well-balanced diet
    • Exercise moderately on a regular basis
    • Get enough sleep (seven to nine hours)
    • Make time for friends and loved ones
    • Do something for someone else – volunteer, donate to charity or perform a random act of kindness

Feeling sad or down every now and then is a normal part of life. However, persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness may be signs of depression. It’s time to contact your health care provider if these feelings interfere with everyday life, you don’t enjoy activities that you once did or you are having thoughts about suicide.

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Crisis Resources

If you need suicide or mental health crisis support, or are worried about someone else, there are resources to help.

Call, Chat or Text 988

  • Free and confidential support
  • Available for mental health-related emergency (suicide, mental health and/or substance use crisis)
  • Call, chat or text 988
  • Staffed by trained crisis specialists who focus on de-escalation, safety planning and coping skills.
  • Available in English and Spanish. Interpretation services available when you call 988, but not available for chat and text.

Southeast Regional Crisis Center

A 24/7 walk-in mental health facility located in Rochester, MN designed specifically for people experiencing a mental health crisis. No appointment needed. Learn more.