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Holiday cheer can be overshadowed by holiday blues

Submitted by Hillary Perkins on December 3, 2013 – 2:04 pmNo Comment

Illustration courtesy of Paige Mason

A lot of work goes into preparing for the holidays, and that preparation has both positive and negative psychological effects.

People have a good time celebrating the holidays with their families. Then again, people invite a lot of stress during the holidays because their agendas are too full and their expectations too high.

People may feel obligated to buy the perfect gifts for everyone, which can strain their finances. They may also feel obligated to buy the perfect dinner. If preparing for the holidays is a way to celebrate love for one’s family, then any imperfection could make someone feel inadequate.

When it comes to cooking for the holidays, certain types of food are considered traditional.

“It is comfort food,” counselor Mike Kirk said. Those traditional foods bring back a lot of memories, and it might not seem like a holiday without that one special dish.

People may suffer from acute stress during holiday preparation. Acute stress is temporary stress which can make it difficult to complete a task and lead to irritability, the most common sign of stress. Stress can lead to a weakened immune system, which could put catching a cold on the list of holiday to-dos.

“People often expect the holiday season to be of joy and excitement, but some individuals have developed negative association s with the holidays, possibly due to sad or traumatic experiences in childhood,” said Robert Hines, a professor in the psychology department.

The long winter nights can also take a toll on mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs during winter months, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It can be treated with light therapy, talk therapy and antidepressants, it said.

A positive attitude can make the holidays less stressful, as can sharing the holidays with loved ones.

“Family and friends are a big social protection from stress,” said Elizabeth Sherwin, a professor in health psychology.

 

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