Mental Health During the 2020 Holidays

Mental Health During the 2020 Holidays

We are now in the midst of the holiday season, and in 2020 it’s like no other. Here we are in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s supposed to be the most joyous time of year, right? So wonderful, so full of joy, of giving, and all good things.

We typically see here, especially in this office and many other offices across the country, increasing anxiety, and depression around the holiday season. My goal is to help you to stay healthy during this trying holiday season. So, we’re talking about anxiety and depression during the holidays and the quick, easy things that you can do to fix it that you probably didn’t already think about. We all experience and treat anxiety and depression in our own different ways: some good and some bad. Let’s talk about some misinformation about anxiety and depression and some natural ways to improve your outlook this holiday season.


Anxiety is the most common psychiatric condition out there. It affects about one in three Americans throughout a lifetime. There’s research on it everywhere about how common it is among Americans. There’s also research about how we can treat it, different things that we do currently to treat this. Depression, second most common psychiatric condition, although it’s a little bit tougher to track. We’re taking major depressive disorders, about one in 20 Americans, although that takes a major clinical depression that we’re actually seeing and getting the statistics for.

Keep in mind; these are really, really common things. If you’re suffering from some anxiety or some depression through this holiday season, just understand we’ve all been there. Everyone goes through it at some time in their life. There’s some ups, and there’s some downs. There are some things out of your control. There are some things in your control. There are ways that you can go about managing this but understand that what you have is not different. It’s nothing that we all haven’t been through at a certain point in time. It’s not a bad thing. Own it, accept it, understand it. We can get you through it. YOU can get you through it, but you have to first realize it’s not something that is bad or taboo anymore.


The classic treatment for anxiety and depression is cognitive-behavioral therapy. You see that a lot. Go see your counselor, go see somebody that you can talk to, a therapist. I still believe in this. I still use this. My family still likes this idea. If you have never been, maybe you should think about going because it is a good, classic treatment without any side effects.

The second most common treatment now is the pharmacologic intervention. What we see here a lot is these SSRIs, these selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The reason that people wouldn’t just take these en masse is that there are a lot of side effects and dependence. Once you start taking these things, there are all kinds of other weird side effects. Also, it’s really hard to get off of these things because it does change your brain chemistry in a way that coming off of them would change it in a negative way.


Two of the things that we’re going to talk about here this evening are what supplements that you can take. They’re over-the-counter, they’re very easy to get, and they’re used for a lot of other things right now. The first one that we’re going to talk about is fish oil. Fish oil is omnipresent in the health food aisle, in the health section of your grocery store and drug store. It came in vogue maybe about 15 or 20 years ago because they were finding that it reduces inflammation. It’s great for heart disease. What they came to after that is it’s also great for brain health. It’s good for brain health because it actually changes how some of the neurotransmitters work in your brain. In your body, it works by reducing inflammation. In your brain, it works by changing how these neurotransmitters go.

There’s some new research out using rats. They put rats in a maze. They had these anxious rats that are stuck in this maze, trying to get out. Then they tracked how fish oil reduces the amount of anxiety. In the second study, they used medical students because medical students are always under tons of stress. They put some of them on fish oil, and others took a placebo. Then, they tested these markers of anxiety, and they see that the ones that are taking the fish oil do better than the ones who are not taking the fish oil.

Then, after that, because these are like very small studies, they did a larger one. They took 1,200 people on either side, 1,200 people who don’t take fish oil, 1,200 people who do take it, from all walks of life, and we see who does better. It turns out that the people who take the fish oil do better. If you’re not taking enough fish oil or the right fish oil, you’re not going to get good results. For good results in the studies, they used 2,000 mg per day of fish oil. There’s a therapeutic dose for this, just like anything else out there, that you have to make sure that you’re getting; otherwise, you’re not going to see any results. Throughout the literature, all the researchers agree that if you can eat fatty fish like salmon or tuna roughly two to three times per week, you can get better results. If you can eat fish, eat fish throughout this season. It’s going to help you to get all kinds of good fish oil, and it’s going to help manage your anxiety and depression throughout the holidays. 

If you don’t eat fish, you may want to know if I can recommend a fish oil supplement. Now, the one that we carry here, a Standard Process Olprima EPA DHA, is a little different because it increased the amount of DHA, which was the stuff that your brain uses. It decreased the amount of EPA, which is the stuff that is anti-inflammatory for the rest of your body. So, it’s really designed to be a brain-type fish oil. If you’re looking for fish oil in the grocery store in the aisle, you need to be looking at the label. It’s going to have fish oil and the number of milligrams, and then it’s going to have EPA and DHA listed on the label. What you’re looking for is a higher level of DHA. So, if you had to pick one supplement versus another, you’re looking for one that has a higher level of DHA because that is what we’re talking about as far as anxiety is concerned.


The other thing is Vitamin D. We get a lot of during the summertime, and here in Florida, we get a lot more of it because as we’re exposed to sunlight, face, hands, arms, and legs, our body converts a chemical already inside of us that then turns into vitamin D. We utilize that in our body, not just as an antioxidant but also for a variety of other things that are going on, not just bone health, but a lot of immune-type scenarios that are going on.

Also, your brain is using vitamin D. Plan to supplement it with vitamin D during the winter months, when it’s cold outside when you’re not going outside. If you’re not going to get as much exposure to the sunlight, you need to supplement with vitamin D, which is going to help to make sure that your immune system is working a little bit better so that you don’t end up catching colds and flu. Viruses happen because you’re trapped inside with a bunch of other people with colds and flu. So, Vitamin D will help with immunity, and it’s also going to help with anxiety and depression. I encourage all of my patients to supplement with good-quality fish oil and Vitamin D to help keep your mental health flourishing during the holiday season.


About Dr. Merrill

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Dr. Andrew Merrill is a passionate active clinician and owner of Nightlight Chiropractic Orlando where him and his team treat hundreds of patients each month. With a strong background in exercise science from Stetson University, clinical skills from Palmer College of Chiropractic, and continued postdoctoral training in spinal disc injuries and clinical nutrition, Dr. Merrill is very well versed in the healthcare landscape. With topics ranging from "what to do for common ailments" to "why the medical system is failing you" Dr. Merrill and this blog in particular aim to keep readers up to date on what the research shows and how you can put it into practice NOW to keep yourself healthy for a lifetime.