A recent discussion with a medical colleague reminded me of a significant medical condition, often unappreciated by both patient and family which can occur during the holiday season, a seasonal discomfort often called situational or reactive depression or "The Holiday Blues." I remember an occasion some years ago when friends at Wesley United Methodist Church in Marshall, in an expression of concern for their fellow men and women, invited all of Marshall to a worship experience at their church on the 21st of December, which is appropriately titled "The Longest Night." On this day, the winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year, this time of contemplation and worship emphasizes "sharing and hearing prayers, Scriptures,and music that acknowledges" the role of God in helping those who struggle at this holiday and winter season.
Depression is an affective or mood disorder which is very common but often can be transient or short-lived, and responsive to the passage of time, simple treatments, or, at times, requiring medication. The Merck Manual, the modern "Home Medical Advisor," defines this situation well in stating: "Transient depression ("blues") may occur as a reaction to certain holidays or significant anniversariesSuch reactions are not abnormal, but persons predisposed to depression may be [afflicted] during such times."
Generally, in helping people with situational or transient depression, often a caring and friendly conversation can be the most therapeutic modality.
Gently educating an involved individual about the condition of the "holiday blues" may be greatly helpful. Most of us feel we are the only ones who are sad because we have lost a friend or relative who used to be a part of our holiday celebration or have undergone another type of loss such as family changes or death, job loss, or location change.
The world situation, magnified by 24-hour news networks and "talking heads," may lead to our thinking only of the less pleasant aspects of our lives. The hustle and bustle of this season, superimposed upon our frenetic daily schedules, may shut out the good news of this special time. How often we race to write our Christmas greetings, but then do not take the time to enjoy these missives sent to us relating the positive and happy news of the lives of our friends and relatives.
My family and many others have had experiences when the best therapy for the "holiday blues" has been directing our efforts away from self-examination and pity to positive efforts directed toward others, often on a one-to-one basis.
For example, is there someone in your family, your neighborhood, your church or social circle, or in a nursing home who would enjoy a holiday visit and or a food item? Perhaps your church or social group needs your help at this busy holiday season, or The Salvation Army and the local food shelf would appreciate your donation. Remember the poignant lessons of Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" and the good feelings its message once understood, engenders in us.
Whether the message is coming from Bethlehem, Wesley United Methodist Church, each other, your family, or another source, take time to appreciate the thoughts and intent of this holiday season and optimize its beneficial effects to all of us.
May all of you enjoy a Blessed Christmas Holiday Season and Peaceful New Year!