What leads a person to have the post holiday emotional let down? More importantly, what qualifies as symptoms of an actual depressed state? It is normal, each year, to experience an emotional high anticipating the many aspects of the holidays and regardless of which holidays we celebrate, there is always a sense of excitement and anxiety that will abruptly disappear in January. Some experts report as many as twenty five percent of us will suffer with a holiday let down lasting for a few days to a week with symptoms similar to depression. So often our expectations are not realistic or we have high hopes for repaired relationships that do not materialize and are left with feelings of disappointment and grief. Many experience a high from all of the bustling around in the commercialization of the season the let down is inevitable.
However, only some of these feelings will lead to an episode of Major Depression.
The National Institute of Mental Health reported that approximately 6.7 percent of American people over the age of 18 are affected by depression. These symptoms can include a consistent lack of motivation, unintended changes in weight, sleeping too much or too little, irritability, a sense of helplessness or hopelessness and feelings of suicide (even a vague sense of not wanting to exist qualifies). Most importantly, these symptoms must significantly affect the person’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis. It is very common for a person to report they are “getting by” with the minimum life requirements, yet all other aspects of their life have been neglected by the depression. If many of these symptoms have persisted for two or more weeks, it may be time to seek professional help through therapy and when necessary, medication.
But once the holidays have passed and the emotional let down begins, there are many preventative measures that can be taken to stave off an episode of major depression. One can begin by simply following through with those new years resolutions that are often quickly forgotten. Most importantly, EXERCISE. If ever there was a cure-all, exercise is it! It improves our mood, boosts those happy neurotransmitters that make us feel like “everything will be o.k.”, increases healthy sleep patterns and decreases irritability. These improvements do not account for the additional positive physical effects on the body.
Other important preventative measures include taking time out for ourselves. There appears to be a common misconception that if we make time to do something just for ourselves we are being selfish. Yet, I will consistently argue that it is a farce if we are depleted and continuing to attempt to give to others. Remember, we can not take care of others without first taking care of ourselves.
Finally, a tactic used with cognitive-behavioral therapy, focus on the positive aspects of your life and use that energy to move forward. In what ways could you use this positive energy to begin a new chapter in your life, start a new project or renew worthwhile relationships? Let us be grateful for even the small moments of grace offered in our lives and remain proactive in our self-care to prevent depression.