Is it normal to feel depressed or experience post holiday blues? According to recent surveys, you wouldn’t be alone if you did. Holiday stress and holiday depression are increasingly common topics of discussion, and statistics show that up to 88 percent of people feel more stressed out than usual over the winter break.
But some people are hit harder by the winter blues than others. Seasonal affective disorder is a mood disorder characterized by symptoms of depression, specifically around a certain season, usually the peak of winter or the peak of summer.
For many people with seasonal affective disorder, the winter holidays are a tougher time of year than any other, mired by feelings of guilt, overwhelming sadness, and general fatigue.
Why Do We Get Post Holiday Blues?
Some people feel progressively sadder throughout the winter season. Some people specifically feel sad around the holidays for a number of personal reasons.
Researchers think that seasonal affective disorder in people with winter sadness is caused by a number of potential issues, including lack of sunlight, a shift in sleeping habits, higher alcohol consumption than usual, overeating or binge eating, higher levels of stress around the holiday season, and financial strain.
But some people feel sad explicitly after the holidays, aka having the holiday blues, rather than throughout the season or in general.
Mental and Physical Exhaustion from the Holidays
There are a few potential reasons. For one, the holidays can be mentally and physically exhausting. Many people do extra overtime at work to finish projects and meet deadlines before the year ends. Some people need to travel extensively to visit family and see their friends. There are many social gatherings around the holidays, which can be exhausting to people who generally prefer to spend time alone.
Unwanted Habits, Lows, and Less Energy
The holidays can also be a trigger for unwanted habits, whether it’s food binging, drinking, or excessive partying and drug use. And lastly, the holidays can be a touching and heartwarming time, but highs can bring subsequent lows. Some people look forward to the holidays each year and feel much sadder when they’re over. Some people simply feel emotionally spent going into the new year and might feel inexplicably sadder or less energetic throughout the weeks after the holidays versus the weeks preceding them.
Identifying What Triggers the Holiday Blues in You
Identifying the factors that affect you the most throughout the holiday season can help you gain better insight into why you might be feeling low. Depressive thoughts and episodes are common – even if only a fraction of the population is diagnosed with a mood disorder each year, up to 7 percent of adults in the US experience a serious depressive episode in any given year. Up to 15 percent of adults are estimated to experience depression in their lifetime. The holidays can be a common trigger for these negative emotions.
Holiday Stress and Depression
Mental health and physical health are intertwined, and stress affects both in similar ways. The mind and body each have a capacity and limit for mental and physical loads. The ligaments of a theoretical knee can bear the force of hundreds of pounds, but there are extreme differences in the circumstances and variables around each knee that cause its maximum load to be highly subjective. A trained athlete might bear far more force than a sedentary person with chronic health issues and osteoarthritis.
We need to recognize that the mind is no different. We have a limit for how much stress we can bear, and everyone’s limits are different. It’s important to recognize when you’ve had enough. You may be overwhelmed and depressed by holiday stress if you are:
- Consistently feeling exhausted, both physically and mentally, despite getting adequate sleep.
- Relying on coffee and other sources of caffeine to make it through the day.
- Unable to focus or pay as much attention to the details around you, making more mistakes at work, or forgetting what people tell you.
- Struggling to maintain a healthy physical appearance, losing interest in your physical presentation, and struggling with hygiene.
- Losing motivation for most of your hobbies or interests.
- Constantly getting sick over the holidays for no discernable reason.
- Feeling physically ill or even experiencing aches without a clear physical cause.
- Experiencing sudden physical symptoms of anxiety when you feel like someone might approach you with a request, including an increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, or chest tightness.
- A drastic negative mood shift, including increased irritability and lowered patience.
Some limits are defined by factors we cannot control. Some factors can help to a degree, but they come and go. Day-to-day factors, like mood and mindset, can change that limit. However, some factors are controllable, and they can markedly improve the mind’s (and the body’s) resilience and adaptation to stress.
Managing your stress effectively and in a healthy manner can make you more resilient towards future stressors and can effectively improve your capacity to act under stress – much in the same way that gradual load management helps your body become stronger, less prone to injury, and more likely to hold under immense pressure.
Utilizing protective factors – taking care of your mental health, prioritizing your well-being, and learning better ways to manage stress, cope with things that push you over the edge, and take time off for yourself over the holidays, can protect you from depressive symptoms and other mental health issues.
Seek Depression Treatment at Amend in Malibu
If you feel depressed during, around, or after the holidays, don’t wait for the new year to seek help. Get treatment today. A structured therapeutic plan, with a personalized medication regimen and individual mental health exercises, can change your life for the better.
You don’t have to struggle alone or wait in silence. If you are experiencing post holiday blues and symptoms of a seasonal affective disorder, a proper diagnosis can help you get the kind of treatment you need, from one-on-one cognitive-behavioral therapy to light-based therapy and much more. Our depression treatment programs at Amend Treatment also help people who need intensive care through residential treatment plans.
Get in touch with us today to learn more about seasonal affective disorder treatment, post holiday blues, and other forms of depression treatment around the holidays.