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the RELATIONSHIP dance WITH VICKI MINERVA Holidays… the emotional aftermath A s difficult as the holidays are famed to be, I’ve found that many hold it together through December and struggle more once the New Year comes. For some, the decision to divorce may have waited until after the holidays. For others, it’s the fallout of an emotional time with (or without) the family. It may be the “first” holiday without a loved one from death or divorce. Having survived the end of the year, the realities are tough once you’ve turned the corner into January. The holiday stresses can be com- pounded for those who suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a type of depression that occurs as daylight shortens creating a predictable seasonal pattern in winter. It can make for a perfect storm when hol iday stress or drama hits at a time when you’re already vulnerable. There are many types of depression: Major Depression, Chronic Depression, situational depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, each having a pattern of its own. I can’t adequately cover them here, but I think it important to understand some basic things whether it’s for yourself, or someone you love. Symptoms include: • Difficulty concentrating (can be significant) • Fatigue, decreased energy • Feeling pessimistic or hopeless • Feeling guilty, worthless, helpless, poor self esteem • Insomnia, typically early morning waking or over sleeping • Irritability • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed • Overeating or loss of appetite • Physical complaints-feeling achy, headaches, or digestive problems • Thoughts or attempts at suicide There’s a helpful video, “I had a Black Dog, his Name was Depression,” which illustrates what it’s like on YouTube. Everyone has down days. The severity of the feeling and the duration (lasting 2 weeks or longer) makes this different than the sadness or discouragement common to all of us. There is a biological (some- times hereditary) component that moves it to a different place. This is a physical thing that affects the brain and therefore mood. It’s a disease that crosses ages, genders, socioeconomic status, and races. Contrary to the opinion of some, this is not a character defect. It’s a real disease. The brain is an organ, affected by many environmental and chemical factors. Others may say things like “Snap out of it” because they want you to feel better but don’t know what you’re dealing with, or how to help. They may hope tough love will turn things around, but it’s not help- ful and in fact, it can make things worse. If it was that easy, you’d have dealt with it a long time ago. If you or a loved one are struggling with these symptoms, there are some things which you can do to do to improve your mood. First see your doctor to make sure there isn’t a physical cause (thyroid problems, Vitamin D deficiency, hormonal issues, or other things which might have depression as a symptom). From there, go back to the basics. Start moving. Physical exercise can be as efficient as medication for some people. Pay attention to your sleep patterns and implement good “sleep hygiene” (google it for more information). Eat healthy. Cut the junk food and alcohol consumption. Edit your schedule to reduce stressors. Get outside. Notice what you say in your head. My guess is that there are some con- demning comments you make to your- self. These are words you’d never say to someone you care about because it would be too hurtful. Once you have noticed what you’re saying, begin to gently say to yourself, “Don’t go there.” How you think affects how you feel. You may need the help of a professional to identify some of the negative beliefs and patterns that push you down. Medication may be needed for some. It isn’t the first line of defense, and there are those who have a distrust of pharmaceuticals, but it can make a difference that helps with bringing back a level of resiliency that helps in treating depression. Be prepared—finding the right medication for you may take a few tries as it is highly personal how people respond to any given medication. I am concerned about the isolation that often comes with depression. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has a host of information and support at nami.org/# that can help link you to resources and people who under- stand. Stay connected to your support systems. Connect with your spiritual disciplines to help find hope and peace in the midst of your suffering. See a therapist or your doctor. Don’t Give Up! Vicki Minerva has lived and worked in the South County area as a Marriage and Family Therapist for over 35 years. She and her husband George raised two beautiful daughters with the help of the vil- lage here. Her education includes a M.Div. degree from Fuller Seminary and a M.A. in Marriage, Family Counseling from Santa Clara University. You can contact her at 408.848.8793 or visit her website at vickiminerva.com My goal is to provide you with some information and help you access tools that will help you live your life and manage your relationships in healthier ways. This information is not a substitute for personal counseling and should not be taken out of context. There are many reputable therapists in the South County area should you need additional help. 90 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 gmhtoday.com