With all of the excitement and anticipation of the holidays, it’s very easy to find oneself a little “blue” once the festivities are over. It is estimated that at least 25% of us experience feelings of sadness, depression, and/or despondency at the close of the holiday season. While these feelings can be completely normal, the important thing is to determine whether these feelings are just temporary, which we then can classify as “post holiday blues”, or if they are signaling a more serious condition, like seasonal affective disorder.
Post holiday blues are really just that- all the excitement of the holidays is over and we’re left feeling a little empty and down. Luckily, if we are just experiencing the post holiday blues, these feelings will be temporary. Within a week or two, we’ll be back on track and moving on.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), on the other hand, is a different story. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that occurs the same time every year. Fall and Winter SAD symptoms include: depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawal, oversleeping, loss of interest, appetite changes, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating. (For more information on SAD, click here)
For most of us, what we are experiencing is likely the post holiday blues. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to dispel the gloom and put a brighter spin on the year ahead of us. (I’ve listed some suggestions below!) However, if you feel that seasonal affective disorder symptoms more accurately match what you are experiencing; visit with our mental health professionals at Mountainlands Family Health Center for counseling and help.
Tips for Beating the Blues!
Structure: After all the madness of the holidays, the organized life you once had might be a distant memory. Go back to your normal schedule. Make your to-do lists. I am always amazed at how good I feel after making my plans and to-do lists. It will make life seem a bit more manageable. Kids especially rely on structure- so even if you don’t do it for you, do it for them.
Stop eating junk: We all do it. We all eat way more than we should during the holidays, and most of what we eat is not healthy. While it may not be the healthiest of traditions, it’s a tradition. So, let’s leave that holiday tradition for the holidays and move on. You’ll find that eating whole grains, fruits and veggies, and drinking plenty of water will make a huge difference in your physical and emotional health.
Make a “BAG”: One website I visited suggested making a “BAG”- a Big Audacious Goal. I love that. At the beginning of January, it may seem like we really don’t have much to look forward to for the next few months besides a whole lot of cold weather. So- what is your BAG? It could be learning a language, furthering your education or career, taking up a new hobby, mastering an instrument, FINALLY losing that weight you keep promising yourself you’ll lose, volunteering, learning a new skill, etc, etc. Make sure it’s exciting and motivating to you and you are more likely to achieve it!
Do some (almost) Spring Cleaning: Not only will this keep you busy and get you off the couch, but the less cluttered your home, the less stressed, down, and irritated you are likely to be. You can start small or tackle the whole house at once- whatever fits your schedule and personality- but you are sure to feel better by the time you’re done!
Pay it forward: The surest way to stop dwelling on your own feelings and problems is to focus on those of another person. So, find something kind to do for someone around you. It could be shoveling the neighbor’s walk, calling a friend to tell them you’re thinking of them, reading a story to a child, making cookies for a friend, etc. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost any money- just the act of thinking of another person will help you to take your focus away from being down and in a more positive direction. And chances are, whoever you help is feeling a little down too, so your kindness with come at the perfect time.
Get moving: Not only does exercise help prevent numerous health problems, but research has shown that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also reduce anxiety and improve your mood. Whether you exercise at the gym, walk around the block, or wash the car, getting out and moving can improve your mood. Doing 30 minutes or more 3-5 times a week can significantly reduce depressive symptoms, but any amount of exercise is beneficial.
What about the kids?: It’s important to remember that if we are dealing with the blues, our children may be also. If they seem especially fussy, down, or sad- the post holiday blues may be the culprit. So, instead of brushing aside their feelings, sit down and discuss these feelings with them. Sharing your own feelings about the passing of the holidays may bring them comfort as well. Then move forward- plan something fun to do as a family, start new traditions, spend some quality time together. All of these things can help your child to feel reassured that they don’t have to wait until the next holiday season to have good experiences and make new memories.
Get help if you need it: If you’ve given yourself a reasonable amount of time to “mourn” the passing of the holidays, have tried several of these suggestions, and still don’t feel any better- seeking professional help might be something to consider. Call Mountainlands Family Health Center at 801-429-2000 to make an appointment.