The holidays have come and gone and a new year has begun. You should be feeling inspired and happy to start working on your New Year’s resolutions and doing what you can to make this year better than the last…right? Maybe not.
Even though many people do greet the new year with excitement, there are also many who find themselves suffering from the post-holiday blues. This is understandable: the holiday season is a time of family gatherings and festive parties, which all comes to an abrupt halt right after the calendar page turns to the next year. Instead of all the merriment, we have to deal with fatigue, going back to work after taking time off, taking down those cheerful decorations, and stress from paying for all the gifts we’ve given. Additionally, the long, cold, dark days of winter, can lead some people to experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you think about it, it’s no wonder many of us experience some depression after the holidays!
Symptoms of Post-Holiday Depression
The symptoms of the post-holiday blues period are similar to those of “regular” depression – headaches, insomnia and trouble sleeping, anxiety, weight gain or loss, and agitation. In general, depression related to the holidays is short-lived, though, lasting just a few weeks into the new year. For some people, however, it can be long-lasting and overwhelming: in these cases, counseling and support groups can help immensely.
Tips for Getting Over Depression after the Holidays
In order to help avoid (or climb out of) that post-Christmas depression period, many mental health professionals recommend taking a pro-active approach to the New Year. You might try:
- Reflecting on the good times you had over the holidays. Spending some time to remember the enjoyable things that happened during the holiday season can help you focus more on the blessings you have in your life. Keeping a gratitude journal can also be helpful.
- Getting some rest: things always look bleaker when you are tired. If you can, take some time to relax and do something just for yourself: reading the book you’ve been wanting to finish, watching a movie or two, or indulging in some “me time” can all give you a brighter perspective.
- Starting a hobby or picking up one that you’ve enjoyed in the past. Activities you delight in will help take the focus off the end of the holiday season.
- Starting to plan your next vacation or what you’ll do on your next long holiday weekend. There are holidays in January (Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday) and February (President’s Day) that you can start looking forward to. Even something as simple as planning a dinner with friends over those weekends can help you refocus your thoughts away from the holidays.
- Volunteering: if you are lonely and missing those gatherings with family and friends, this can be a great way to get out and be around people.
- Phototherapy: If your depression is more related to the dark days of winter, phototherapy can help immensely. Seasonal affective disorder generally responds well to light therapy, in which patients are regularly exposed to bright light. In particular, fluorescent lights have been shown to significantly improve depression. People with SAD can purchase “light boxes” which are used for approximately 30 minutes daily in the morning and evening.
- Setting realistic New Year’s resolutions. Don’t aim so high that your goals are unattainable or you may end up disappointed in yourself for breaking them.
Above all, expect to enjoy the year ahead of you. Look forward to the coming months: plan some of the things you’d like to do this year, make a list of things you’d like to accomplish, stop looking backwards at the past. Put your goals for the year down in writing or tell them to a friend, so you’ll be more likely to make them happen.