Some common symptoms that are generally cited by
clinicians include some of the following:
Losing or gaining weight by having a poor appetite.
Inability to sleep by waking during the night or sleeping
more than usual.
A feeling of always being sad or anxious; perhaps a feeling
that nothing matters any more.
Pacing or moving about in restlessness or constantly being
irritable with those around you.
Feeling that in most situations you are helpless and
consequently worthless; an overwhelming feeling of guilt about
anything or everything.
Seeing the world around you from a pessimistic perspective;
a feeling of being driven toward hopelessness.
Great difficulty in making decisions or thinking about daily
actions; even a lack of memory.
A morbid attachment to thoughts of death or even thinking or
planning suicide; in some cases even attempting suicide.
Being tired all the time, no energy, like the weight of the
world is slowing you down and making you sink in the mire of
mundane tasks around you.
No interest anymore in things that used to bring pleasure,
like family activities, personal hobbies, even sexual
Physical ailments that cannot be relieved, like aches and
pains that are difficult to explain or locate, and cannot be
found by your doctor.
As one might guess, the symptoms listed above are those of
anxiety and depression that affect people anytime throughout the
year. It seems, however, that these symptoms are exacerbated
especially during the Christmas season. The question might be
asked as to why that could be.
Several answers come to mind:
The most obvious, of course, is that around Christmas, people are
generally making plans to gather with their family. Christmas is
a natural holiday season for families to gather and celebrate
the season. A person who has experienced the loss of a loved one
feels especially sad during that time since the effect of the
loss is much more intensified.
Another reason is that in general, people begin to somehow
"soften" their tolerance of daily irritations around them. Even
people in large cities seem to make eye contact for a
millisecond or two when passing on the street. People seem to
become more helpful than usual.
Even though most Western cultures are materialistic in
nature, there is still a veil of "religiosity" that descends on
the culture during those weeks between the American Thanksgiving
holiday and Christmas Day. That is usually manifested in more
smiles, greater cheer toward others, little acts of kindness, a
feeling of generosity, and traditions of giving and receiving
gifts as a form of celebration. When people who are hurting
experience this, it sometimes causes the hurt to run deeper.
Those traditions have evolved through the years in many
countries, including the United States, that actually change
the environment with decorations that are tied specifically to
the season. So much so, in fact, that those whose personal
perspectives diminish the actual reason meant to celebrate the
birth of Jesus have instead decorated the environment to create
a holiday season that somehow celebrates the coming of winter
more than the birth of Christ. Chestnuts are usually roasting on
an open fire, trees are glistening everywhere you look, sleigh
bells are ringing in our ears, and the holiday season somehow
has to be white with snow to make it happier. Government and
retailers have contributed to the season by tacking onto it the
economic indicators that enhance the bottom line with huge sales
during the last fiscal quarter of the year.
The problem with
the holiday season with all of its external trappings is that it brings
with it a certain amount of stress and pressure to "keep up," so that many become overwhelmed with the prospects of just keeping
in the race. With the requirements of keeping up in the holiday
season race, school activities, buying presents, going to
parties, staying sober enough to think, pleasing those around
us, even re-entering an oft-forgotten religious ritual becomes
an attack on the person's senses and emotional well-being.
Attack can be deadly
It is an attack really, especially for those who are already
undergoing emotional stress, anxiety and depression. The
difference is that the holiday season is an attack not only on
the psyche and emotions, but also an attack on the heart. It is
an external attack that places requirements of performance,
compliance, conformity and agreement with stressors that are not
desired or wanted.
Even in the Bible we find that attack on
"Anxiety in a person's heart weighs him down..." — Proverbs
Anxiety is coupled with fear: fear of failure, fear of
rejection, fear of loss of love, fear of continuing to fight
the fight and endure the anxiety. That anxious fear is so
debilitating that it brings the person to their knees. It weighs
heavily on their heart, brings down the spirit and causes
[to top of second column]
Just as much as the holiday season ushered in over the years
of tradition brings an attack on the heart through stress,
anxiety and depression for some people; by contrast, the
Christmas season offers healing, restoration, freedom and
redemption of the heart.
Notice that I am contrasting "holiday
season" with "Christmas season."
The other part of the Proverb
verse cited above is this:
"… but an encouraging word brings him joy." — Proverbs 12:25
Life is beneficial; there are good things to life.
"encouraging word" in life is all these things; plus it promotes
life, creates life and protects life. The encouraging word brings
encouragement, kindness and insight to help the person grow into an
understanding of what life is all about beyond the accumulation of
possessions and materialism. The person is brought back to a proper
perspective of life and love and set right with a renewed
As mankind moves away farther and farther from God's
redeeming love, the effects of the external attack are more
pronounced. Humans were created to worship God and have communion
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus in a
letter entitled Ephesians, a part of the Holy Bible: "For we are his
workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that
God prepared beforehand so we may do them." — Ephesians 2:10
We were created in Christ Jesus so that we could walk in good works
through Jesus. This was a promise long before any of us were even
born. God had made a plan to redeem us through Jesus, and our very
life, our spirit, longs to worship Him and yield to His redemptive
power to work through us His good works as He helps us proclaim to a
dying world that peace and goodwill come only through Him.
people try to find relief for their symptoms of anxiety, stress,
depression and emotional upset by taking medicine and seeking help
from the clinical world. For sure, there are many who find some
relief in chemicals and self-help exercises or talk therapies
evolved from men's theories of mental health, but the actual healing
of the heart comes through the yielding of the body, mind, soul and
spirit to the God of creation, Who created us to live without fear,
anxiety and depression.
Again, the Apostle Paul wrote to the
Christians who lived in Philippi, a Greek settlement that had come
under Roman rule, advice that each person who accepts Jesus as
Christ should yield to:
"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! Let everyone
see your gentleness. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about
anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition
with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God
that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true,
whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is
excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you
learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And
the God of peace will be with you." — Philippians 4:4-9
Christians everywhere, we should live in a state of rejoicing in the
Lord, Who has given Himself as a sacrifice on the cross and shed His
blood so we could be redeemed from sin and death and live in Him a
life of hope and salvation. Our gentleness should be seen by
everyone; people will know that we have the power of God in our
lives because all around us the world is in the race of power,
competition, lust, materialism, greed and being caught up in the
attack of the heart that results in fear, anxiety and depression.
We are to throw off anxiety and fear, rid ourselves of the resultant
depression by living in the knowledge that God is more powerful than
any attack that may come. We live through prayer and asking God to
indwell our spirit with His Spirit and offer thanksgiving constantly
for His watchful care over us.
This results in a peace that
transcends all human understanding, a peace that floods our soul
with knowing that in Christ Jesus our hearts and minds are guarded
against all the attacks of the world.
Finally, the Apostle Paul says that we should change our
thinking to substitute for the worldly "Happy Holiday" thinking with
thoughts that come from the "Christmas season" thinking. He said,
"Whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if
something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things."
Substitute things that are untrue with things that are true; things
that deserve respect instead of so many things that should be
ignored; things that are just instead of things that are unjust;
pure, lovely, commendable things that bring joy and happiness rather
than hateful, lustful, rancorous things that bring fear and anxiety;
and finally, substitute thinking about excellent or praiseworthy
things rather than dwelling on guttural or sinful things.
As we think on these things, something miraculous happens: As we
submit ourselves to Christ and live in Him, we turn loose of our own
external power to live for ourselves, release ourselves to His
saving grace and redemptive power, and we begin to be filled with His
Holy Spirit, Who gives us power to live and work and experience our
being in Him.
Outside of that Christmas season power, we are subject to the
internal, personally created strength of the mankind-created holiday
season. Merry Christmas!
[By JIM KILLEBREW]
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