Psychologist offers advice for Christmas blues

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This season is often portrayed in songs and movies as the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas may very well be the apex of someone's year, but if the holidays are a reminder of loved ones who are no longer with you, things you can't afford, or the lack of family, then this time of year may be a period of depression. Dr. Ryan Denney, a licensed psychologist with Hattiesburg Clinic said he can relate.

"There was always just a little bit of sadness because I couldn't be with both parents at the same time," said Denney.

Denney admits the holidays aren't the happiest time for him.

"My parents divorced each other when I was two, and so I grew up going mom and dad, mom and dad and having to divide my time," said Denney.

Denney recalled the division occuring every Christmas.

"Which means I got two Christmases, but it really didn't make up for the sadness of missing one parent. I was always missing one parent at some point," said Denney.

Denney said over the years, through his work of therapy, he's realized others experience seasonal depression for various reasons. so, he wrote an article on holiday depression, highlighting common causes and offering suggestions to address them.

He said the biggest reason is loneliness. he wrote some people feel disconnected, isolated despite having lots of people around them.

"The thing I encourage people to do is to reach out. Be open to relationships, to selflessly give unto others. Service is a great way to combat loneliness.Combating loneliness is a community effort. So, I encourage people to look around for others around them that may be lonely, or not have people in their lives and invite them into their circle," said Denney.

He explained another cause is financial pressure and stress.

"Make a holiday budget and stick with it the best that they can, one that is reasonable for themselves and for their family," said Denney.

Denney said many people feel grief this time of year over people who've died, and people we can't be with due to distance.

"Do something to commemorate or remember the person who's not there. Anything you can do to honor that memory or keep that person close even if they can't be there physically," said Denney.

According to Denney, another cause of sadness is difficult family relationships.

"I encourage people to work towards acceptance of their family members as they are, you can't change them. Set boundaries with them, say no, keep challenging or destructive family members at bay," said Denney.

He adds, a different way to combat difficult family relationships is creating a "family of choice." Denney said some of his most wonderful holiday memories involve his family of choice.

"Which is you can choose to involve other people as part of your family, to consider them like family, even though you are not blood related. Some families of choice can take the place of some difficult blood family relationships," said Denney.

He said there is also comparing yourself to others. Denney said to avoid comparing your private life to the lives people portray on facebook, and other social media. He encouraged people to choose contentment.

Here is a link to Denney's complete article and a link to more information about him.