Episode 76: Quitting, by host, Laura Milkins. Our guest, Doctress Neutopia, tells the story of her depression and how being diagnosed early with dyslexia led to feelings of isolation and depression, and how anger about the nuclear arms race led to being institutionalized by the State for expressing her opinions. Sunday, January 7, 2018.
Episode 75: Home for the Holidays, by host, Laura Milkins. For this Christmas special, our guests, Sarah Litscher and Cameron Milkins (Laura’s mom and brother), share stories of Christmas, struggles with depression, and healthy ways to make it through the Holidays. Sunday, December 17, 2017.
Why We Get Depressed At The Holidays, And How To Deal
While images of love and joy fill storefronts, TV screens and magazine pages, for many people, the reality of the holidays isn’t so cheerful. Between stressful end-of-year deadlines, family dysfunction and loss, poor eating and drinking habits, and increasingly cold and dark winter days, it’s easy for the holiday season to feel not-so-merry and bright.
Constant reminders of others’ happy seasons can additionally serve as a painful reminder of the happiness and love that’s lacking in our own lives. For this reason, the month of December can be a particularly difficult time of year for those dealing with family conflict, loss, break ups, divorce, loneliness and mental health issues.
Feelings of depression and negative mood affect many people at the holidays, and not just those who have been diagnosed with clinical depression. While there hasn’t been data to suggest an actual rise in depression rates and suicides in December ― research has found that depression and suicide actually peak in the spring ― some experts say that the holiday blues are a very real phenomenon. And of course, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that this is the case.
Here are some of the risk factors of holiday depression, and how you can avoid them:
Setting up unrealistic expectations.
Hoping for a picture-perfect White Christmas holiday is setting yourself up for not only disappointment, but potentially symptoms of depression.
“People have this anticipation or fantasy of the holiday that you would see on TV,” psychiatrist Mark Sichel, author of Healing From Family Rifts, told HuffPost, adding that his practice gets much busier after the holidays. “Actually, it’s never exactly as people anticipate and it’s often disappointing. There’s often strife within families that comes out at holiday times.”
Especially when it comes to family especially, it’s important to manage expectations during the holidays and not hope for things to be perfect. If holidays tend to be a time of conflict in your family, or you’ve recently experienced the loss of a loved one, putting pressure on your family to all get along or to be cheerful could lead to disappointment and additional anxiety.
Being mindful of what you do have to be thankful for ― your sister who always makes family gatherings bearable, getting a week off of work, or just the promise of a fresh start with the beginning of the new year ― can help combat feelings of deficiency and lack.
“Realize that the holidays do end ― and take stock of what you can be grateful for,” says Sichel. “Having gratitude is probably the best antidote against depression.”
Trying to do too much.
At the holidays, the pressure of trying to do everything ― plan the perfect holiday, make it home to see your family, say yes to every event, meet those year-end deadlines ― can be enough to send anyone into a tail spin. And if you’re prone to anxiety and depression, stress (and a lack of sleep) can take a significant toll on your mood.
A heightened pressure and fear of not getting everything done are some of the most common triggers for the holiday blues, according to Sichel.
“Being bogged down by perfectionism” can contribute to feeling down, says Sichel. “Many people feel they just can’t do the right thing, that family members are always disappointed in them.”
Comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides.
Both in real life and on social media, it can be difficult to avoid comparing yourself with others around Christmastime. If you have a less-than-perfect family, a past trauma from this time of year, or just a less-than-full holiday dance card, comparing your holiday experience with other peoples’ is a recipe for increased sadness and isolation.
And as Sichel points out, these comparisons tend to be skewed — and they tend to make us feel bad about ourselves.
“People’s basis for comparison is not based in reality, because most families have issues and most people do not have the perfect Christmas that they would like to have or that they’d remember from their childhood,” says Sichel.
Slacking on self-care.
For many people, December is the busiest time of the year. When work pressures pile up and the calendar gets full with social obligations, the routines that normally keep us healthy and happy — yoga class, morning runs, healthy home-cooked meals, a meditation practice — are usually the first thing to fall by the wayside.
In addition to increased stress, eating poorly and drinking excessively can also exacerbate issues like stress, anxiety and depression.
“Take care of yourself — don’t overeat and over-drink,” says Sichel. “Do your regular routines of exercise and whatever keeps you together during the year.”
Sichel emphasizes the importance of avoiding binge drinking. Alcohol is everywhere during the holidays, and if you’re struggling with feeling down, it may be wise to avoid drinking as much as possible — alcohol is known to worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
If you tend to start feeling down when winter approaches each year, and those negative feelings don’t go away after the holidays are over, you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
According to Sichel, many people who think they are suffering from a case of holiday blues may actually be suffering from SAD, a form of depression that’s brought on by the change of seasons. But SAD shouldn’t be dismissed as mere “winter blues” — talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of the disorder to find a treatment that works for you.
Episode 74: Breakup, by host, Laura Milkins. Our guest, Jeff Brennan, tells the story of his depression how having a routine and regular therapy have gotten him through his struggles with depression, drugs and alcohol. Sunday, December 10, 2017.
Life is balance of holding on and letting go. -Rumi
Your Post-Breakup Depression Isn’t About Missing Your Ex (Excerpts)
Understanding the reasons behind what you’re feeling enables you to take control of your emotions. It will help you realize why you’re feeling a certain way right now.
This will then help you to fall out of love with your ex, recover and move on faster.
Here are five psychological things that could be the reasons behind to your post-breakup depression:
1. You’re worried about the future.
One of the major factors that lead to the terrible way you feel after a breakup is concern for the future.
But this pain has nothing to do with your ex or any “love” you think you have for them — it has to do with your own personal worries.
Concerns like this should be isolated from the love you think you have for your ex.
2. Bottled-up emotions are now coming back to the surface.
People in relationships sometimes use the relationship as a way to run and hide from other negative emotions and personal problems. These problems could be family issues, financial difficulties or struggles regarding work or social life.
If this is the case, you will really feel bad after the breakup because you’ve lost your escape from reality.
Again, this element is not related to your ex or how you feel about them.
You’re likely projecting your unhappiness with your life onto your breakup because it’s easier to place the blame on something that’s obviously painful — like a breakup — than it is to admit the problem was within you all along.
3. Your pride is damaged.
When you get dumped, it’s natural for your pride to take a hit. And when your pride gets hurt, you translate it into pain.
Learning how to handle this on its own will enable you to take control of this particular element of the pain you’re experiencing. After all, a bruised ego doesn’t equate to heartbreak.
Some of the pain you’re feeling is your pride’s pain, not your heart’s.
4. You’re having self-confidence issues.
“What is wrong with me? Is there something missing or lacking? Am I not smart or good-looking enough? Where did I go wrong? What else could I have done?”
When you get dumped, it’s normal for you to think something is “wrong” with you. This element of your pain, however, is not related to love or your ex. It’s actually about how you perceive yourself.
It roots from self-esteem and self-confidence issues that should be addressed independently to lessen the pain you’re feeling.
5. You’ve lost your routine.
When you’re in a relationship, you get used to certain routines you did as a couple. This includes traveling together, celebrating anniversaries, having a time of day when you check up on each other, etc.
Any person who experiences a change or loss of such routines will go through withdrawal. This is the last element that contributes to the post-breakup pain you feel that is not intrinsically related to your ex.
You will feel this emotion regardless of who you’re in a relationship with and how much you loved them. It should not be confused with the feeling of love.
It’s the loss of the routine that hurts, not the loss of the person.
The pain you feel after a breakup is not solely related to love, but rather is caused by combined emotions and feelings rooting from personal thoughts and experiences.
Understanding the reasons behind the pain after a breakup empowers you because you can then realize the depression is not always going to be related to love or to your ex. This helps you take control of these emotions and deal with them separately.
To get over someone fast, you need to dismantle false beliefs about love that have been instilled in us by the the movies we see and the music we listen to.
In place of these false beliefs, you need to place the reality of what really causes your pain after a breakup.
Don’t dismiss the heart, even if it’s filled with sorrow. God’s treasures are buried in broken hearts. –Rumi
Episode 73: Hopeless, by host, Laura Milkins. Our guest, Urban, tells the story of his depression and how practicing gratitude helps him maintain hope and good mental health. Sunday, November 26, 2017.
I Feeling hopeless and not sure what to do next? Some days it can be hard to even get out of bed when it feels like there’s nothing we can do to make things better. But there are things we can do. Little steps we can take to help ourselves or someone we know.
Use Your Support Network: A support network doesn’t have to be an army of friends and family. It could be just one person who we can talk openly to about how we’re feeling. It helps to reach out to that person we can be honest with when things are overwhelming.
Challenge Negative Thoughts: A big part of depression or anxiety is those thoughts in our heads that tell us things are bad, we are hopeless and that it won’t get better. The simple exercise of checking those thoughts and challenging them can do wonders for our state of mind. If the thought floats through your mind that things are never going to get better, remember a time when things were bad but did improve. This simple exercise can remind us that feelings generally do pass over time.
Take Care of Yourself: It sounds so simple, but little things like getting enough sleep and eating as healthy as possible can make a huge difference on how we feel emotionally. Lack of sleep can, in and of itself, cause problems with depression and anxiety. Also, exercising has been proven to significantly reduce symptoms of depression.
Use Moderation: We all know that drinking too much or abusing drugs can actually make us feel worse in the long run. Moderation is important when it comes to partying, but it’s also important in other aspects of our lives. If we’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed, we may have to say “no” to certain activities or opportunities. It’s more important to rest and take care of ourselves than it is to do everything.
Most importantly, be proactive and go talk to a counselor in your community if you are worried about your thoughts and feelings. Use our Find Help Now page to get started.
Episode 71: Gray, by host, Laura Milkins. Our guest, Viola, tells the story of her depression and how how having depression has made her more compassionate with her students. Sunday, November 12, 2017.
The Quirky Brain: How depression may alter visual perception
Published: November, 2010
When someone is depressed, the world may seem flat or monochrome, even tinged with blue and gray. For a long time, researchers assumed this was a purely psychological phenomenon. But a study suggests that changes in visual perception in people who are depressed may have a biological basis.
Researchers at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg in Germany recruited 80 people to participate in their study of visual processing. Forty participants were diagnosed with major depression according to criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV); 20 were taking antidepressants at the time of the study, while the others were not. The other 40 participants, who scored in the normal range on two common depression screening tests, served as controls.
Previous studies of the impact of depression on vision have asked participants to report subjective perception of colors and contrasts. To obtain a more objective measure, the German researchers attached electrodes near participants’ eyes to record electrical responses in the retina as study participants viewed a series of checkerboard patterns with varying degrees of black-and-white contrast. The retina contains cells that react to different wavelengths of light and in turn transmit electrical signals that travel along the optic nerve to the brain, where the information is interpreted as color, shape, and contrast.
When compared with healthy controls, the participants with major depression — whether they were on medication or not — were significantly less able to detect differences in black and white contrasts on the checkerboards. The researchers also found a significant association between severity of depression (as measured by standard clinical instruments) and perception of contrasts. The lowest electrical recordings of retinal activity occurred in those participants who were the most depressed.
The study thus suggests that one reason the world may seem gray when people are depressed is impaired contrast perception. Future research is necessary to replicate the findings, and to determine what other factors (such as impaired visual functioning within the brain) may contribute.
Episode 71: Grief, by host, Laura Milkins. Our guest, Daniel Buckley, returns for the 2 year anniversary of The Depression to tell the story of his depression and how working on his current film has been a big challenge to his struggles with depression. Sunday, November 5, 2017.
Episode 70: Connection, by host, Laura Milkins. Our guests, Destany and her daughter, 7, each tell the story of their depression and how they are getting out of the cycle of abuse and poverty through therapy and their strong mother-daughter connection. Sunday, October 15, 2017.
Episode 69: Connection, by host, Laura Milkins. Our guest, Austin, tells the story of his depression and how getting a sense of perspective and practicing gratitude helped him focus outward on what he could do to help others, rather than focusing inward and feeling depressed. Sunday, October 8, 2017.
10 Ways to Deepen Your Connections With Others (excepts)
Smiling at another person is one of the simplest ways to connect with them, and it only takes a second.
2. Make Eye Contact
When you make eye contact and choose to be completely present with other people, it cultivates a level of trust and safety that allows them to open up even more.
3. Schedule Quality Time
In today’s world, there’s a bigger emphasis on running around and getting things done than there is on making time to connect with others.
4. Listen With Your Heart
When you can listen from your heart rather than your head, you’re able to be present while someone else shares. When you feel heard—really heard—by another, it deepens your level of trust and connection with them.
5. Actively Love
The art of actively loving happens when you turn love into a verb instead of simply viewing it as a state. Practice doing things for—and with—people that demonstrate you love them.
6. Communicate Consciously
Relationships require open, compassionate, and conscious communication. Effective communication asks that you show up in the conversation without engaging in melodrama or blaming others or yourself.
7. Dig Deeper
Through doing your own personal development work, you come to know and understand yourself at a deeper level. As this journey unfolds, you inevitably learn more about those who play a role in your life experiences.
8. Be Present and Focused on the Other
Ask people about their lives, their families, their hobbies, goals, and visions. Then, really listen to what they have to say.
9. Establish Go’s and No-Go’s
Another profound way to connect with others is to dip below the surface and explore the deeper level conversations that reveal other people’s likes and dislikes.
10. Be Authentic
Another profound way to connect with others is to be authentically you. Practicing authenticity means being vulnerable.
Episode 68: Reaching Out, by host, Laura Milkins. Our guest, Francesca, tells the story of her depression and how rejecting the label of “depression” helps her manage her symptoms, allowing her to accept her emotional state and be honest about how she is feeling. Through yoga and her blog she helps others find their own way through depression. Sunday, October 1, 2017.
You don’t have to formally inform someone that you feel like you have clinical depression.
Instead, you can simply say that things have been a bit tough for you lately and that you’re struggling to cope. Ask if they can listen to you without judging for a little while, and then tell them how you feel and what you’re going through. You may be surprised how supportive, empathetic or understanding your family member or friend may be.
2. Join support groups
There is nothing like being able to talk with people who really understand what you are going through — fellow travelers — those who also live with depression or bipolar. There are specialized depression or bipolar groups, and those that support all mental health challenges.
3. Call a support line or reach out online
These provide total anonymity and support from either trained counselors or people who have been through depression and survived.
Reading the documented struggles of others from all walks of life when it comes to depression can help provide you with a sense of both perspective and scale. Not only are you not alone — many more people are afflicted than you may have initially thought.
Episode 67: Down, by host, Laura Milkins. Our guest, Sara West, tells the story of her depression and how the judicial system still stigmatizes depression and will use it against you in court proceedings. Sunday, September 24, 2017.