Thursday, October 23, 2014

Holiday Blues aka Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional or a licensed mental health therapist!
While I have provided some of the best ways to treat the “Holiday Blues / SAD naturally, it must be understood that depression is a serious condition – if in doubt always seek professional medical advice.

Do the holidays get you down?  May gay men report feeling sad during this time of year, as the all-too-familiar pain of strained family relations and lack of an intimate relationship can come bubbling to the surface.  And with the shortened daylight, gloomy sky, and cold weather outside beckoning us to stay indoors, we can often become hermit-like, inviting feelings of loneliness and, ultimately, depression.  Even those of us who typically enjoy our alone time can feel that it’s just too much to handle at times, especially when we log onto Facebook and see others having great times at parties, gatherings, and other holiday celebrations.

What are the Symptoms?
There are several symptoms associated with SAD but here are the most common ones:

o Fatigue
o Unrealistic expectations
o Feeling bombarded by over-commercialization
o Strained relationship issues that surface when families get together
o Reminders of past losses of significant loved ones
o Sadness over the contrast between "now" and "then"
o Adapting to changes in family configurations and logistics for celebrating together caused by such new situations as divorce, marriage, blended families, adolescents who no longer celebrate the holidays as "children," and grown children establishing their own independent holiday traditions
o Financial constraints and demands
o The inability to be with friends and family
o Residue stress from unfortunate past experiences during previous holiday seasons
o Tension caused by the additional demands of shopping in holiday crowds, heavier-than-usual traffic, entertaining, holiday baking, long-distance travel, family reunions and/or houseguests

How to combat these feelings

Keep your expectations for the holiday season manageable:

Be realistic about what you can and cannot do-as well as what you want to do and don't want to do. Although the holidays often mean trying to fit a lot of activities into a short period of time, pace yourself and, to the degree it's possible, try not to place your entire focus on just one day (e.g., Thanksgiving Day, Christmas morning, New Year's Eve), instead, remember it's an entire season of holiday sentiment and that activities can be spread out (time-wise) to help increase enjoyment and lessen stress. Set realistic goals for yourself; make a list and prioritize

Limit predictable sources of stress: If you feel the annual trappings of shopping, decorating, cooking and attending social events risk becoming overwhelming and stressful, use discretion and limit the activities you commit to.

Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely: During the holiday season, there's room for feelings such as sadness and/or loneliness to be present along with other more joyful emotions. You may be feeling out of sorts and periodically out of sync with the season's "jollier" aspects. When you feel down, avoid critical self-perceptions, such as thinking of yourself as Scrooge and, instead, try to articulate the understanding you need from those around you. You might also consider seeking the help of a therapist to help you sort out your feelings and deal with the troubling issues.

Don't fall prey to commercial hype: Advertisers would like to have you believe that "if you really loved someone " you'd give him or her that expensive new gadget or piece of jewelry.  Recognize the ads and commercials as hype that manufacturers and stores have to do to benefit optimally from the season. You can show love and caring in lots of thoughtful ways which don't cost a lot and that make the holidays all the more meaningful and personal.

Get together with friends in any way possible:  As much as possible, share the holidays with friends and family members by phone, e-mail, and mail, as well as in person. The holiday season can also be a good time to contact someone you have not heard from for awhile.   Spend time with special friends and family members with whom you can reminisce and share stories and warm memories about your loved one.

Don't abandon healthful habits: Don't feel pressured to eat more than you're accustomed to just because it's the holiday season. And, since many of the season's parties and social gatherings include alcohol, be aware that excessive drinking will only contribute to or increase feelings of overwhelm or depression. Alcohol is NOT an antidepressant and, in fact, often worsens mood.

Make the time to get physical exercise: Exercising, for example, aerobics, walking, skiing, hiking, yoga, or swimming, can help burn away a lot of stress as well as the extra calories of holiday meals.

Remember that life brings changes: As families change and grow, traditions often need to adapt to the new configurations. While you can hold onto certain family rituals, for instance, a certain holiday activity or preparing a long-cherished family recipe, some traditions, such as everyone gathering at your house, may not be possible this year. Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don't set yourself up for disappointment by comparing this year's holiday season with the nostalgia of past holidays.

Engage in volunteer activity: Helping others is a pretty foolproof method of making the holidays feel more meaningful. There are many volunteer organizations that need extra help during this time of year.

Attend holiday community events: Most communities offer special events during the holidays, such as theatrical and orchestral performances, that can be enjoyable to look forward to and to attend.

Enjoy activities that are free: Financial strain can be the cause of considerable added stress during the holidays; however, there are many ways of enjoying the season that are free

Nightmare on Normal Street
Hillcrest’s one and only Halloween street party is taking place on October 25, 2014. Join us if you dare for a scare! This spooky celebration will take place on Normal Street between University Ave. and Harvey Milk Street. The events of the evening will include ‘fang-tastic’ live entertainment and spine chilling d├ęcor! New this year, Nightmare on Normal Street will feature an all ages fright zone and soda bar.
The evening’s chills and thrills include:
• Rich’s Night Club, Grand Stage with headliner Dj Nikno
• A costume competition
• Multiple fright zones brought to you by different local Hillcrest businesses
• Food trucks
• An over 21 area on the street and an all ages area

Tickets are on sale now and just $10 for general admission. Eat, drink and be scary with all you can drink “witch’s brew” and complimentary food with purchase of a $50 VIP ticket (must be over 21 to purchase). Proceeds for the evening will support the San Diego LGBT Community Center and the Hillcrest Business Improvement Association. Get your tickets at:
Or on Facebook search for Nightmare on Normal Street

Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Dinner
Thursday, November 27at 11:30am - 3:00pm
The San Diego LGBT Community Center
3909 Centre St, San Diego, California 92103

The Thanksgiving Community Dinner was started by HIV/AIDS activist Scott Carlson back in the early ‘80s to provide a communal gathering for people living with HIV/AIDS during Thanksgiving to share a meal and spend time with people who cared.  When Carlson passed away, the community banded together and continued this tradition.  In 2004, the Imperial Court, along with the First Unitarian Universalist Church, took over the lead role of securing the continuation of this wonderful tradition and named the event as the Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Community Dinner in his Carlson’s honor.

Balboa Park December Nights: Dec. 5 & 6 2014

Balboa Park December Nights, the nation’s premier holiday festival, will take place for the 36th consecutive year on Friday, Dec. 5, 3-11pm, and Saturday, Dec. 6, noon-11pm. As always, the event brings families and friends together to spread holiday joy, learn more about the cultural value of Balboa Park and kick-off the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Participating Balboa Park museums open their doors free of charge from 5-9 pm both evenings and more than 350,000 visitors are expected to experience the joy of San Diego’s largest free community festival. Those who attend will participate in a truly multicultural experience, enjoying food, music and entertainment from around the world.

Home For the Holidays   December 6th  5-8 PM

'Home for the Holidays' brings our community together to dance, eat and celebrate our diverse holiday traditions with 'family' away from home. More than 20 community organizations will come together to put on a holiday celebration for the entire San Diego LGBT community and our allies. All are welcome. The event is free, but guests are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy to support the Imperial Court de San Diego's annual toy drive. For more information, contact Carolina Ramos at or 619.692.2077 x116.

“Alternative but sometimes useful therapies”

The #1 recommended therapy to combat the holiday blues and SAD is light therapy.
That means different things to people in different parts of our country.
Here in San Diego we are fortunate to have some sunny fall and even winter days. 


Light plays an important role in our health and the amount of time exposed to it affects our performance. As the sun begins to rise in the morning the light that makes its way through our eyelids is recognized by the pineal in our brain. This gland secretes a chemical called serotonin and reduces the production of a chemical called melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that our body produces to help us sleep, while serotonin regulates our mood and energy. Serotonin and melatonin work together in managing important aspects of our physiology. Immunity, pain, digestion, sleep/wake cycle, body temperature, blood pressure, blood clotting, and daily body rhythms are all affected by serotonin and melatonin. The shortage of light in the winter is what affects our hormonal balance causing the wintertime blues. That is why it is important to expose ourselves to a good amount of bright light.


St John's Wort (Hypericum) Tincture
St John's wort is now commonly known as the alternative anti-depressant and is highly effective in combating some of the symptoms associated with SAD. The one you are most likely to come across is A.Vogel's Hypericum Tincture, of which it is recommended you take 20 drops twice a day with water. 

St John's wort contains hypericin, which "interferes with monoamine oxidase (MAO), which contributes to depression. Pharmaceutical products also act as MAO inhibitors, but St John's wort is a slow treatment, and, crucially, has few side effects."
It is also used to treat nervous depression and can help with sleep and your body's absorption of nutrients, helping to restore vitality and wellbeing. While it provides a generally safe alternative to drugs such as Prozac, side-effects may a affect a very small proportion of people including diarrhea and skin sensitivity to the sun.

Try SAM-e (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine). This naturally occurring bodily compound helps produce and regulate hormones, including the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine; low levels of these are associated with depression. Dr. Howard recommends taking 400 to 800 milligrams daily. Brands that passed independent tests for potency, conducted by, include GNC, Natrol, and NutraLife. St. John's wort, which has been touted as a SAD remedy, doesn't seem to be effective for relieving seasonal affective disorder, Dr. Howard notes.
Take a fish oil supplement with at least 600 milligrams of combined EPA/DHA daily.
Take 500 milligrams of vitamin C three to four times a day with plenty of water, and a B-complex vitamin.

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