Suicide is still the tenth leading cause of death and the rate of suicide in 2016 increased by 1.2 percent. In 2015, the last year the CDC released mortality data, there were 44,193 suicide deaths; in 2016 there were 44,965, an increase of 772 additional deaths.
While the average number of suicides per day are the lowest throughout the months of November and December, the number begins to climb again in January, February, and March – peeking throughout the spring each year. The holiday season tends to bring with it a contagious joy and celebration, typically including family, friends, and happy gatherings. However, it is also a season of stress, anxiety, loneliness, heartache, and disappointment. When you mix these feelings with someone living with depression, it can possibly trigger a chain reaction that ends in a devastating outcome. Harvard professor of psychology Matthew Nock cited a study published in JAMA Psychiatry that found that as hours of sunlight increased, so did the risk of suicide. The authors hypothesize that sunlight could boost energy and motivation, giving people who are depressed the ability to take action and make a suicide attempt.
When someone is depressed, they often withdraw and self-isolate. However, during the holidays, there is an emphasis on spending time with family and friends, which can be particularly difficult when you do not feel that you are truly connected to these people. This pertains to many types of depression, including: clinical depression, seasonal affective disorder, or bipolar disorder.
People with depression tend to have a negative view of themselves and their lives, this is true ever when they know:
- No one has a perfect life.
- Social media is not an accurate account of true life.
It is important for those living with a mental health condition to take extreme care of their own needs. If you or a loved one has a mental illness, please work closely with a trusted doctor and therapist regularly, especially during the holidays. Begin a journal of your daily feelings, as it is easy to forget your exact emotions from day to day.
Beating the Holiday Blues
Unlike chronic depression, seasonal depression does not linger long after the holidays or winter months, but it can still cause you to feel the same symptoms as someone who lives with it every day. A lot of seasonal factors can trigger the holiday blues such as: less sunlight, changes in your diet or routine, alcohol, over-commercialization, or the inability to be with friends or family – or worse, being forced into gatherings with people who do not make you feel happy.
Signs you may have the “Holiday Blues”:
- crying spells
- Mood swings
- trouble concentrating
- body aches
- loss of sex drive
- decreased activity level
- overeating (especially of carbohydrates)
- weight gain.
How to help yourself:
- Find increased social support during this time of year. Counseling or support groups can also be beneficial.
- In addition to being an important step in preventing the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, regular exposure to light that is bright, particularly fluorescent lights, significantly improves depression in people with SAD during the fall and winter.
- Setting realistic goals and expectations, reaching out to friends, sharing tasks with family members, finding inexpensive ways to enjoy yourself, and helping others are all ways to help beat holiday stress.
- Including proper supplements daily, along side of a healthy diet and exercise can improve your mood and lesson your symptoms.
- Make realistic expectations for the holiday season.
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
- Make a list and prioritize the important activities. This can help make holiday tasks more manageable.
- Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
- Do not put all your energy into just one day (for example, Thanksgiving Day, New Year’s Eve). The holiday cheer can be spread from one holiday event to the next.
- Live “in the moment” and enjoy the present.
- Look to the future with optimism.
- Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the “good old days” of the past.
- If you are lonely, try volunteering some of your time to help others.
- Find holiday activities that are free, such as looking at holiday decorations, going window shopping without buying, and watching the winter weather, whether it’s a snowflake or a raindrop.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol, since excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
- Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
- Spend time with supportive and caring people.
- Reach out and make new friends.
- Make time to contact a long lost friend or relative and spread some holiday cheer.
- Make time for yourself!
- Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks.
- Keep track of your holiday spending. Overspending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays are over. Extra bills with little budget to pay them can lead to further stress and depression.
If you are thinking about suicide, or if you are worries about someone else, please get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255
We are addicted to technology, but at what cost?
- Sleep Deprivation
- Heart Disease
- Eye Diseases
- Breast Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Rewiring of the Brain
The list can go on.
Blue light is everywhere. The sun, TV’s, computers, phones, tablets, fluorescent and LED lighting, electronic devices, and any type of digital screen all project a blue light. Light from the sun is natural, traveling through particles in the atmosphere and scattering everywhere, making the sky blue. This natural blue light is what regulates the body’s circadian rhythm (the sleep and wake cycles). This natural light boosts alertness and increases happiness. Artificial blue light, however, does not have the same effect.
Most people spend a majority of their day at work exposed to unnatural blue light through their phones, tablets, or laptops. Due to the addiction of social media and technology, the exposure of light continues at home into the evening. Homes are illuminated well past the darkest hours, and people are paying the price.
The Dangers of Technology
Rewiring the Brain: Exposure to technology and blue light is rewiring the neural circuitry, increasing skills like multi-tasking, complex reasoning and decision-making. But it reduces emotional abilities like sympathy and empathy.
Repetitive Stress Injuries: Recurring movements that affect muscles, joints, tendons, and nerves can cause pain and injury to the area(s). Quervain Syndrome, injury to the tendons in the thumb, can be caused by texting, for example.
The Spine: Tilting the head 60 degrees places 60lbs of pressure on the neck. The neck and cervical spine can compress or stretch the nerves and cause posture issues and chronic health problems. Proper chiropractic care can alleviate symptoms and promote healing if you are suffering from issues currently. A chiropractor can also aid in preventing problems from arising.
Tendonitis or Wrist Pain: Holding devices and using the fingers to type can trigger joint pain. Virtual keys don’t react when they’re pressed. Users typically strike these keys with as much as eight times the force as they tap real ones. This force puts strain on the fingers, wrist, and forearm. Typing more than a few sentences at a time on a tablet or smartphone can cause problems. Even holding the fingers in anticipation of typing can cause damage. This is known as isometric tension, and it puts stress on the muscles and tendons. Disorders such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and other diseases caused by unnatural postures are painful and possibly debilitating, but can be helped through chiropractic care.
Decreased Fertility: Wifi (electromagnetic radiation) can lower sperm count in men. A 2015 study discovered that sperm count is lowered, damaged, and has a decreased motility whether the man spends one hour a day or seven working with a laptop connected to wifi. This includes carrying a smartphone in a pocket all day.
Suppressed Melatonin: Blue light can suppress the secretion of melatonin which leads to sleep disruption. Exposure to light at night is linked to breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Melatonin is a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, meaning that a lower production causes the entire body to be at risk for illnesses.
Headaches: Tension headaches can arise from eye strain, triggered by blue light.
Eye Strain: Constant or excessive blue light exposure blurs and dries the eyes causing strain and eye exhaustion. Blue light penetrates all the way to the retina and can damage light-sensitive cells causing macular degeneration, which can lead to permanent vision loss.
- Include chiropractic care in your regular habits. Chiropractors can aid with posture problems, joint pain, and other issues related to blue light and technology over-exposure.
- While it is impossible to avoid blue light and technology, it is possible to decrease usage by creating rules for yourself. Turn off devices 2-3 hours before falling asleep at night and lessen your daily exposure.
- Resist the temptation to bend your neck forward or backward, and especially avoid turning your head or tilting it to one side or another for extended periods. Take frequent breaks, and if you feel any discomfort stop what you’re doing and find a more comfortable position.
- Adjust contrast of light admitted by your devices.
- Try to stretch after every 10 minutes of blue light or technology exposure.
- Use a red night light instead of blue. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
- Consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.