Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More
Christmas and New Years have passed. The excitement is over. All the Christmas shopping is done. New Year’s Eve is over and a New Year has begun. The Christmas trees are down, the lights put away and all the friends and relatives have returned to their homes as you have returned to your home. Everyone returns to work and school on January 2nd or 3rd and life returns to its normal pace. The problem is that many people experience a small ache and even a sense of dullness or fogginess that they cannot explain. A sense of emptiness sets in for many people as much of the nation heads into the dreary, cold months of January and February. Many people, but not all, become aware of a feeling of depression after two months of preparation and celebrating that began at Halloween, continued into Thanksgiving and ended in Christmas and New Year’s Eve. A few people among us become so very depressed that they begin to think thoughts of suicide. Are there ways around these awful feelings?The answer is yes, there ways to cope with the end of the holidays and either avoid or reduce feelings of depression:
1. One of the best ways I have found to cope with transitions is to plan for the next excitement so that I minimize or avoid feelings of loss. By the word transitions I am referring to the need to adjust to changing seasons and external circumstances.
Examples of transitions are events such as:
a) Moving from the weekends to the start of the work week;
b) Moving from summer vacation to the start of school and work;
c) Changing seasons such as summer to fall and winter;
d) Watching our children leave home to attend college;
e) Changing our place of employment;
f) Moving to another and very different part of the country;
g) Returning home from a journey to Europe, China or another part of the world.
This is not a complete list of the kinds and types of transitions people have to make every year of their lives but it gives a pretty good idea. I suppose the worst possible type of transition we are forced to make is coping with the loss of a loved one through death, the most permanent type of transition there is.
Some of these transitions are easier to cope with than others. However, planning the next vacation, visit to friends, show or movie to see or concert to go to are ways of providing our selves with something to look forward to.
2. Plenty of exercise the most affordable anti depressant there is, enables people to fend of or reduce depression and feel really fit and healthy.
3. Good nutrition along with plenty of exercise helps maintain a good attitude towards life and its challenges.
4. In the case of the holidays, a sense of spirituality is helpful in maintaining a sense of well being. Even though a holiday may end, the belief in a higher power and attendance at an institution of religious worship combine to help many people gain a sense of strength and comfort.
5. One way to gain a sense of the spiritual without being religious, if that is not your bent, is mindfulness meditation in which you learn to focus on living in and appreciating the present moment. Appreciating the present moment includes being in touch with being a part of the universe and of the natural world.
6. The fact that the holidays are over does not mean we have to lose contact with friends and loved ones, even if they live far away. In fact, it is always positively reinforcing to talk to people we care about, share our feelings with and maintain a sense of belongingness. Social isolation is never helpful and should be avoided.
7. If the sense of “blues” do not go away then it is important to seek psychotherapy and, very possibly, medication. Today, more than ever, depression is very treatable. There is no reason to remain feeling depressed and empty.
Signs of Depression?
1. Feeling sad and empty on a daily basis.
2. Entertaining thoughts of suicide.
3. Thinking that life is hopeless and that you are helpless.
4. Difficulty falling asleep and/or remaining asleep or sleeping too much and not wanting to get out of bed.
5. Difficulty focusing attention or concentrating.
6. Feeling physical pain with no reason for that symptom.
7. Experiencing agitation and feelings of anxiety.
8. Losing appetite and weight or greatly increased appetite with significant weight gain.
9. Feeling constantly fatigued regardless of the amount of sleep attained.
Do not wait to get help. There is no time like the present.By the way, drinking alcohol or using drugs will only worsen the condition of depression.
What are your comments about the post holiday blues and transitions?