Chase Away the Winter Blues

photo by trestletech at

While the holiday season can bring joy for many people, it can also bring on a case of the winter blues.

Lack of sunlight, shopping pressures, family issues, and setting unrealistic expectations during the holidays can be catalysts that trigger a syndrome known as the winter or holiday blues, according to Dr. Ashley Overley, CEO of the Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center. “It’s of the utmost importance to realize when those symptoms evolve into major depression or anxiety.”

Mental health experts from Eskenazi acknowledge that some level of stress is normal but suggest that when someone feels overwhelmed for a prolonged period of time, help should be sought. “Extended feelings of intense sadness can be overwhelming and cause for great concern, especially during the holiday season, and we want everyone to know that we’re here to help with those serious concerns,” said Overley.

Winter brings reduced sunlight. The combination of fewer hours of light and the stresses of the holiday season can trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons, and may add to intense feelings of sadness and despair this time of year.

According to Eskenazi Health, about 5% of U.S. adults experience SAD, and it typically lasts about four to five months. It is more common among women than men, and found more often in people living far from the equator, where there are fewer daylight winter hours.

“Our staff is experienced and highly skilled in applying a wide variety of treatments to battle these aggravating and harmful symptoms, and the Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center is dedicated to providing the best possible care for all our patients,” Overley said.

Eskenazi Health offers the following tips for dealing with the winter blues:

  • Keep expectations manageable and set realistic goals.
  • Make the effort to set aside differences with friends and family members.
  • Set aside holiday planning worries by scheduling specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and family, and other activities.
  • Be willing to acknowledge your feelings and reach out to others.
  • Do something for someone else, such as volunteering at a shelter or wrapping an elderly person’s holiday gifts.
  • Stay active and hit the gym to relieve stress and gain powerful endorphins.
  • Participate in free activities.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people.
  • Save time for yourself.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.

Eskenazi Health is the public hospital division of the Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County, a municipal corporation supported in part by property taxes and whose budget is subject to review by the City-County Council. Over the years, the clinic has expanded throughout Marion County. The Midtown location is 3171 N. Meridian St.

The Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center offers a number of mental health services, including severe mental illness and substance abuse treatment, 24-hour emergency services, and specialized home- and community-based programs for children and adolescents with serious emotional disorders.