Year after year, as Christmas approaches, numerous articles begin to appear everywhere stating that not everyone enjoys the holidays, that one-third of people dread them and that this makes them depressed.
Temporary depression as Christmas approaches
Recently, the phenomenon has been medically “labeled” (the highest form of recognition!). If you experience symptoms, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
A wide variety of antidepressants are also available to you and many psychologists are willing to see you in their offices if you pay a fee.
However, this condition in 10% of the population known as “seasonal Christmas depression” has a known cause: lack of light and exposure to sunlight, which causes a drop in vitamin D levels in the blood.
In summer, when the sun is particularly strong, its rays can reach the retina. The brain receives a signal from the rays that instructs it to stop producing melatonin, one of the hormones that control sleep cycles.
However, when winter arrives, this signal is insufficient and melatonin levels remain high even during the day. This is why it is easier to experience fatigue, apathy and depression during the winter.
After a blood test to determine if you are vitamin D deficient, you should take a vitamin D supplement throughout the winter to prevent vitamin D deficiency. The ideal serum level is between 45 and 70 ng/ml.
To counteract the lack of light in the retina, you can resort to light therapy, which has been scientifically proven to be the most effective treatment for treating seasonal depression.
Light therapy consists of daily exposure to a light source that simulates natural light at a level of more than 2,000 lux, at a distance of about 50 cm, for 30 minutes.
From the appearance of the first symptoms, in September or October, this treatment should be continued until spring.
That said, one should not rule out the possibility that seasonal depression may be aggravated at this time of year, largely as a result of loneliness or strained relationships with some of the people in your life who are not particularly cheerful during the Christmas holidays.
Networks of sociability
Camillo Zacchia, the chief psychologist at the Institute of Mental Health at the University of Douglas (Canada), says that one of the reasons why the Christmas holidays can be so difficult for some people is that we are constantly reminded that we are isolated from our loved ones and friends.
A reflection on how to avoid getting into this situation.
There are five networks of sociability or five ways we interact with others:
- Professional endeavors (or school or college for young people).
- Social and recreational activities (sports and cultural clubs, associations, trips, parish…).
According to a report by the Telephone of Hope, 25% of Spaniards say they often feel lonely and 40% admit to having no close friends.
An increasing number of people are leaving their professional activities.
People who are retired, unemployed, inactive and therefore without work colleagues; without family, have distanced themselves and their neighbors are no more than strangers whom one passes in the elevator.
There are more people around them than meets the eye who have none of the five categories of sociability networks. They also have no friends, no family, no co-workers, don’t know their neighbors and have no contact with anyone in their free time. In other words, they are alone.
Telephone of Hope
The number of cases of loneliness and isolation is increasing. The Telephone of Hope receives more than 300,000 calls a year, but this figure only scratches the surface of the suffering caused by this unwelcome loneliness.
How can we be surprised that more and more elderly people are mistreated in institutions without anyone noticing, or that corpses are found in apartments where no one knew there was no longer living, months or years after death?
Since absolute loneliness is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, we are witnessing a true social implosion that will cause endless suffering to the victims.
Man is a social animal
Aristotle, a philosopher, already stated this in the 5th century BC. In the book of Genesis, 750 B.C., it is stated: “It is not good that man should be alone”.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix or magic recipe for this problem. The step-by-step approach is the only way out.
Each of us can try to improve where we can, such as in our environment and personal life, by being alert, anticipating and avoiding being a victim of loneliness.
The step-by-step method
For lack of space, we cannot explain how you can start from scratch to create a strong family, a considerable network of friends, a welcoming workplace, excellent relations with your neighbors and a variety of sports, cultural and associative activities that will allow you to meet a lot of interesting people. Also, you have to be realistic and remember that nothing is ever going to be perfect.
However, despite their inevitable generality, the following reflections may be useful to you.
Every social group can fool you into thinking you’re in good company when you’re alone. Elena may not be aware of or feel the effects of not having family, friends, or neighbors because she is so preoccupied with her career.
John and Patricia may be so close and bring so much to each other that they are unaware of how few real friends, good friends, or neighbors they have.
Antonio does not realize that he has no family, co-workers, or neighbors because he has such a strong group of friends.
In each of these situations, I warn them: “Danger! For each of them to experience maximum loneliness after losing their only social group, it would be enough for Ellen to lose her job, Patricia to die unexpectedly and Anthony to be forced to move to another city.
We should make sure that our social relationships are as balanced as possible at every stage of life and take care to maintain them in all five groups.
Even if we have a great marriage, many friends and a good job, we should not forget our neighbors or stop participating in social, sports, cultural or associative activities.
On the contrary, we should take advantage of the fact that we are in good company and the feeling of security it gives us to get closer to others, approach strangers and meet new people.
As no one can predict the future and you never know when it may happen, you will be grateful to have your neighbors by your side when you have lost some or all of your other groups as a result of unfortunate events.
Virtuous friendship group
When there is a “virtuous circle” of friendship, the process is much easier.
A person who is happy in his or her marriage will find it easier to be friendly and make friends, get to know his or her neighbors, participate in activities to expand his or her social network and even find a satisfying job with a positive work environment.
On the other hand, someone who has isolated themselves from the outside world and lost all contact with it will have a very difficult time rebuilding everything.
That is why, in the beginning, one should refrain from being too demanding. It is better to start by favoring social situations that allow one to interact directly with people if one is extremely socially isolated and would like to have a life partner, rather than looking for one right away.
Through activities and interactions, you will form relationships with people, some of whom will become friends and, who knows, you may even find your soul mate.
Principle of reciprocity
The five networks are not the same, but it is clear that having a good relationship with family and friends is preferable to having one with co-workers or neighbors.
A wise man once said, “Friendship is the most precious commodity in the world” and “every effort should be made to maintain family unity.” This means making an effort to abide by the law.
If you never do anything for your partner, do not listen to him, are impatient, do not try to understand him and do not forgive him anything, it is difficult to demand from him a spirit of service, listening, patience, understanding and forgiveness.
When your parents do not treat you with love and respect and are not available when their children need them, it is difficult for the children to be loving and respectful to them.
As you may have guessed, my key concept in interpersonal relationships is reciprocity, which can be summarized in the proverbs “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Failing reciprocity and trying to keep one’s word to one’s loved ones becomes heroic.
I am afraid it is too late to make your Christmas the most wonderful and warmest of all Christmases, in the bosom of a united family, with many good friends, around a well-stocked table and under a beautiful Christmas tree, if you isolate yourself today and start this step-by-step method now.
The following Christmases, however, can get better and better until the “Christmas seasonal depression” disappears completely and is replaced by a strong and lasting joy.
And I’m depending on you to remember to include me in the invitation to the extravagant party you’ll be throwing for Christmas!