The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is often hectic, filled with activities and high expectations. There may be a flurry of social activities and events leading up to the New Year. According to Psychology Today, there may be an increase in depression and loneliness as the holidays draw to a close and the New Year begins.
Our beliefs about what the holidays should have been or had been in the past fuels disappointment, sadness and sometimes anger. For some, memories of holidays past are pleasant, filled with tradition and joy, whereas for others, they see holidays as a time of sorrow, anger, and a reminder of unhappy experiences. Losing a loved one or a relationship can intensify or trigger a sense of grief and loss both during and after the holidays.
After the holidays are over and you return to work, there may be a “letdown” as you resume normal activities. Emotions may range from mild unhappiness to irritability, but this usually resolves rather quickly as you settle back into your routine.
Spending too much time reflecting on what didn’t happen or what you didn’t accomplish in the last year can hamper the process of moving forward. An honest self-appraisal will also reveal what you did achieve in the previous year, and this can be used as a starting point in setting new goals for the next year.
However, if you find that you experience significant changes in mood that begin each fall and last through the winter, you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to Helpguide.org, as the days become shorter with less sunlight, one to two percent of the population experience symptoms of depression such as sadness, tiredness, insomnia, appetite disturbance, poor concentration and hopelessness.
Mayoclinic.org describes SAD as a subset of Major Depressive Disorder and is characterized as having depression that begins and ends during a specific season at the same time each year. SAD is more commonly found in women, and risk decreases with age.
Individuals experiencing SAD may feel the impact both at work and at home. With decreased energy, everyday daily tasks such as washing dishes may seem overwhelming. Poor concentration, decreased productivity, and lack of interest may also lead to poor job performance at work.
If you think that you are experiencing SAD, you may want to contact your primary care provider or mental health provider for evaluation. Sometimes the medical or behavioral health provider may suggest “light therapy,” also known as “phototherapy,” which is the use of a special light that is similar to natural lighting found outdoors.
There are also lifestyle changes you can make that lower your risk for SAD. These include increasing your time outside and doing exercises — going for a brief walk or even sitting on a park bench for a few minutes.
There is a growing body of evidence about the role of nutrition and development of depression. Everydayhealth.com lists several studies that have demonstrated a relationship between highly processed, high-fat, and high-sugar diets and increased risk for depression. Diets that include whole grains, low-fat meats, fruits and vegetables can reduce this risk.
Although lifestyle modifications can lead to improved overall health, if you have been experiencing significant depression with a decrease in interest and energy, consultation with a medical or behavioral health provider is the best course of action.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide or homicide, call 911; contact the mobile crisis services for adults at 612-596-1223; for children, call 612-348-2233; or visit the nearest hospital emergency room. Contact Dr. Annice Golden at NorthPoint Health and Wellness, 612-543-2500, if you have questions or concerns.