The holidays are over. Lights taken down, decorations packed away, candles blown out. And you’re feeling blue. Many folks experience a case of the “blues” after the six weeks of holiday energy from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. But, feelings of depression, isolation, anxiety or simply “feeling down” that are intense or that last for more than a couple of weeks can be symptoms of a more serious problem–depression.
Frequently the holidays bring to the surface long avoided feelings of loneliness, discouragement or dissatisfaction with family relationships. You may find you feel disconnected from others, that you don’t count, or that no one cares for you. Often food, music and work are used to push away those feelings. But in bed, late at night, you’re aware of the feelings again.
It is important to determine whether your “blah” feelings are due to a physical cause, are temporary, or are a symptom of depression. If your physician gives you a clean bill of health then it’s time to consider emotional reasons for depression. If left untreated, depression can lead to health, career or family problems. In the most severe cases suicide is also possible.
But, which is it, holiday blues or depression?
Generally the holiday blues will resolve with no extra effort within a few weeks. While you may feel sad, tired or distressed, you are able to handle everyday activities and responsibilities.
Depression is more intense than the “blues”. There are several symptoms of depression and they last two weeks or more and interfere with your daily life. What used to be enjoyable may now feel like a burden. In fact, getting out of bed in the morning may be more than you can handle some days. Other warning signs are:
-Feelings of emptiness, guilt, hopelessness or despair
-Lack of energy–even after eight hours of sleep
-Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
-Feeling irritable and overwhelmed–life seems to be too much
The good news is that depression IS treatable.
Many people are unaware that depression is the number one illness in America. Unfortunately, many of those suffering from it, or close to one who is depressed, are also unaware it is very treatable. Up to 80% of those who finally seek help are helped.
Often we believe we must keep a stiff upper lip and not ask for help for depression. It may be considered a sign of weakness to ask. But the fact is depression is not helped by just ‘thinking positively”. Professional intervention is often necessary. Treatment for depression is multi-faceted.
First, see a therapist for a complete evaluation. We use the Hamilton Depression Inventory to assess the severity of a client’s depression and to plan treatment. Consider help from anti-depressants or herbal treatment as an adjunct to therapy. Recent studies have indicated that therapy along with anti-depressants is more effective than anti-depressants alone. Then, increase physical activity as exercise allows the body to produce more endorphines which increases mood. Minimize the amount of sugar and flour you eat as these foods increase depression. Finally, get adequate but not excessive rest–six to nine hours per night.
If you are experiencing simply the post-holiday blues then following “Blues Busters” shown below may be helpful.
-Partner with a friend to hold each other accountable to do one thing you’ve avoided. Build on that success.
-Listen to your heart. Do you need time with a friend, a funny movie, or a day with a child?
-Often depression is anger turned inward. Consider forgiving yourself!
-Take care of your physical needs. Set reasonable goals and develop a way to achieve them.
-Plan an outing for March when it’s warmer!
Keep up hope. Help *is* available if you need it!
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune, without the words, and never stops at all”
— Emily Dickinson