It’s easy each year to view the resetting of the calendar as a resetting of life itself, what with the hope inspired by New Year’s Resolutions.
But the fact is even as we begin our journey into 2020, some people will face heightened not lessor anxiety, stress, depression, and other mental health challenges. Two-thirds of Americans say that between financial stress during the holidays and fear of unreasonable expectations for themselves, a new year can seem daunting.
It may seem counterintuitive, but during the holiday season, which can also be a time of great mental health challenges, we are often surrounded by family, friends, and loved ones. Additionally, holiday activities, imagery and symbols of positivity, from group meals to decorations and gifts, to film and entertainment can inadvertently give a false sense of security about challenges that are front and center other times of year.
But once the holidays end, the post-holiday blues can set in — especially so for those already battling mental or emotional health challenges.
Suddenly, it’s back to reality. And the literal cold slog of winter continues without the festivity. Post-holiday blues or depression look a lot as they might during non-celebratory periods, marked by anxiety, inability to sleep well, even extreme swings in weight gain or loss.
Ironically, though, just as during the holidays, there is hope in therapy and other support frameworks that are as simple as family and friends or as complex as medical care and one-to-one or group counseling.
If you or someone you care about is facing depression or related struggles as the holidays fade, consider “attacking” the new year.
Don’t sit back and accept what you assume the year has in store for you. Arm yourself with the energy and positive thoughts you may have taken from your holiday gatherings and apply that energy to your “regular” life.
People with such challenges should consider keeping a written log of what has recently —during the holidays, for example— made them happy and hopeful.
Other tips are to:
- Make an effort to spend more time with the people around whom you were happy during the holidays because a celebration isn’t required to maintain a friendship
- Set and follow through on a travel goal or make a set of plans revolving around another holiday because it will give you a way to challenge yourself and will give you something specific to look forward to
- Plan “kindness activities” that will compel you to try to help others in need — maybe donating your time or expertise or even tangible items like food or clothing
- Get rest; numerous scientific studies have shown that the body and mind function better when rested. If you’re unable to rest, consult a physician or other licensed therapist who may be able to recommend or prescribe an appropriate medication to help
There are other tips and many options for treatment if this time of year is challenging for you and yours. See a therapist. Get help. Ultimately, the steps you take can make the difference in staggering into the new year and fighting off challenges or coming in with a roar and keeping your challenges in check. You can win the year. Start now!
By Dr. Pavan Prasad, M.D.
Founder, Clarity Clinic Chicago