Fight holiday depression with understanding

By Jamie Gavin

During the holidays, many individuals experience depression and sadness rather than comfort and joy. According to the National Institute of Health, nearly 45 percent of Americans report increased feelings of anxiety or depression related to the holidays.

Memories of lost relationships, loneliness and despair can hit hardest this time of year. Alcohol and other substances that are used to medicate hurts often only exacerbate the problem. So what is the best way to fight these kinds of feelings?

I believe there are two opposite response centers at the root of all our behavior: love and fear. Fear responses are fight, flight or freeze. Love responses are care, connect and share. Fear breeds control, anger and isolation. Love breeds acceptance, compassion and community. Love is a choice. Fear responses are our natural attempt to control what we cannot control.

From birth, we all have learned how to engage them. Isolation, depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, bitterness and resentment all grow from fear responses. Friends often advise putting painful memories away. Yet trying to not think of something only makes it more prominent in our minds and engaging of our emotions.

We are often counseled to embrace the pain, but how can that happen without making things that much worse?

Our emotional feelings come from our learning experience–our history. Many have greatly differing feelings regarding the same events, because their history is different relating to those events. Can you change your history? No, so why try to change your feelings?

Accept your feelings, your pain. Open your heart to behave according to the principles of love. Choose love, and develop corresponding feelings. Choose to be present with others. Volunteer to help others. Do something to brighten another person’s day.

Visit those who are isolated and lonely and share with them your story while listening to theirs. Share your feelings with others. The mountains of despair may turn to molehills of memories.

It is not wise to isolate yourself in order to protect yourself from those morbid feelings that are so very familiar. Dare to share.

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