Seasonal Stress in Two Flavors

The last few posts have been about seasonal stress, whose most obvious and apparent symptom is often overconsumption. The yearly profits of large corporations depend on inducing people to overeat and overdrink during the winter holidays. On the home front, the familial reputations of nephews and cousins depend on how convincingly they can assure older relatives that they really, truly do love fruitcake.

Adults who are nervous wrecks tend to abandon all sense of discretion about their food intake and to lose track of how much the children under their care are consuming. What the heck, it’s the tail end of a generally unsatisfactory year, and any joy that can be derived from chowing down on chocolate-covered cherries is well-deserved. That is what we tell ourselves, anyway, or some version of it. Ordinary self-deception does a lot of damage, and so does a painful condition that, fortunately, can be successfully treated, even by such remote means as telepsychiatry.

An old name and a new one

SAD, short for Seasonal Affective Disorder, was the old name. The new specific term is Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern. The changing of the season triggers chemical reactions in the brain and body, and the outcome is depression. Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D., wrote,

It’s a subtle but very real condition that can cast a pall over the whole season and be a source of stress and unhappiness during a time that people expect to feel just the opposite.

Jessica Maharaj has gathered several self-help options for the National Alliance on Mental Illness website. The point here is, anything that would alleviate such a serious condition could probably help just about anybody who gets slammed by the more widespread emotional storm engendered by the winter holidays. Here are the facts:

Hydration nourishes the brain and its physical effects can improve your overall mood.

[A]ny form of exercise will release endorphins, which can lessen the symptoms of depression.

[S]ocial interaction […] can help lessen the feelings of loneliness that may come around this time of year.

Taking a bath, having a warm drink or getting a massage can create a sense of calm and happiness.

[O]ver-indulging in unhealthy food around the holidays can negatively impact symptoms.

So, drink lots of water, and moisturize your skin, too. Do something pleasantly physical. Socialize with people whose presence improves your quality of life, and avoid the other kind. In the realm of calorie consumption, don’t trade short-term satisfaction for long-term regret. Move around, outdoors if possible, and take appropriate precautions against the coronavirus pandemic.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Managing the Seemingly Inevitable Holiday Season Stress,”,01/15/21
Source: “Avoiding Holiday Stressors,”, 12/03/18
Image by Paul VanDerWerf/CC BY 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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