While the holiday season is famous for the joy it brings, the incidence of depression and anxiety also tends to rise this time of year.1 The reasons are many, ranging from unrealistic expectations of friends and family, to overly demanding schedules, to increased use of alcohol, to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Whatever the season, depression can grow into a debilitating disease if left untreated. Whatever the causes, the holiday blues are real.
The Disability Concern
Depression is a major problem that results in acute emotional distress. Symptoms range from feelings of guilt and hopelessness to changes in eating and sleeping patterns.2 It is also one of the leading causes of disability: one in eight workers has been diagnosed with depression, and major depressive disorder is the primary cause of disability for people who are 15 to 44 years old.3,4
Protecting Your Health and Your Income
Fortunately, some disability insurance policies offer coverage for mental or substance abuse disorders, with no limitation on coverage for the duration of benefits. This coverage can apply not only to depression but also to other mental health conditions like anxiety or alcohol and drug addiction. These policies may be available through your employer or purchased independently through a representative. When researching a policy, be sure to ask specifically if mental and substance abuse-related disorders are covered. Check whether there is a limit on the length of time you can get benefits for conditions such as depression, anxiety and alcohol or drug abuse.
What can you do if you find that you’re suffering from the holiday blues? Many resources are available to the public, such as BehaveNet, which provides information about diagnoses, psychiatric drugs, terminology and other topics; PsychCentral, a mental health site that offers articles on common disorders and resources for treatment and support; and WebMd, a source of health and medical news and information.
The EAP Option
If you’re employed, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) may be available at work. Typically, EAPs provide confidential and personal support, including one-on-one counseling, on a wide variety of important topics, to promote the well-being of employees and their family members. While these programs are typically limited to full-time employees, if you’re one of the growing number of part-time workers in the United States, you also may have access to them: Nearly half of firms with over 1,000 employees provide benefits for their part-time workforce.5
Best Practices for Self-Help
There also are many things you can do to help your mood. Though, to be clear, these practices should complement, rather than replace, professional help. Regular exercise can help ease depression and anxiety by releasing endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that can increase your sense of well-being.6 Meditation also helps ease the symptoms of depression.7 Or try spending time in the great outdoors: People who walk for 90 minutes in a natural area show decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with depression.8 Another mood booster: regular, in-person visits with family and friends. People who meet with friends and family at least three times a week are the least likely to report depressive symptoms.9 Finally, keep an eye on how much time you spend online or with a mobile device. Frequent late-night computer use is associated with sleep disorders, stress and depressive symptoms.10
Depression and anxiety tend to increase during the holiday season. If you or someone you care about is exhibiting symptoms related to a mental health condition, it’s best to seek the help of a medical professional. By taking the right steps, you can do a lot to make this time of year a happy one.
1 Randy A. Sansone et al., “The Christmas Effect on Psychopathology,” Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 2011.
2 “Symptoms of Depression,” WebMD.
3 Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “Depression in the Workplace,” Everyday Health, 2014.
4 “U.S. YLDs Contributed by Mental and Behavioral Disorders,” National Institute of Health, 2010.
5 “Part-Time Nation,” The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, 2016.
6 “Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms,” Mayo Clinic, 2017.
7 Madhav Goyal et al., “Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being,” Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine, 2014.
8 Gregory N. Bratman et al., “Nature Experience Reduces Rumination and Subgenual Prefrontal Cortex Activation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015.
9 Alan Teo et al., “Does Mode of Contact with Different Types of Social Relationships Predict Depression in Older Adults? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Survey,” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2015.
10 David Volpi, “Heavy Technology Use Linked to Fatigue, Stress and Depression in Young Adults,” Huffington Post, 2012.