While the start of a new year brings the hope of a fresh start for many, for others it creates an emotional low period often referred to as the “New year’s blues.” In fact, feelings of depression, anxiety, nervousness and even dread are actually quite common during the first few weeks of January. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of these post-holiday doldrums and take a positive approach to banishing them.
Feelings of mild depression following the holidays are caused by a variety of factors. Some individuals worry incessantly about their future and the many unknowns to come. Others compare their previous year’s accomplishments to those of their peers or family and feel that they didn’t measure up. Still others look back on last year’s goals and realize that they didn’t achieve what they wanted. Combine these negative thoughts with a few extra holiday pounds and the absence of holiday lights and parties and it’s no wonder that many enter the year with a lack of enthusiasm.
Some are More Susceptible than Others
The reason that some people are more susceptible to developing New Year’s blues is that they keep reviewing their failures and bad experiences without doing anything about them. Additionally, individuals who are already mildly depressed can have their depression exacerbated by the pressures of a new year. Many people use negative coping mechanisms, like alcohol, that actually make matters worse. They also focus on the worst part of a situation or problem, thus escalating it into a much larger issue that it actually is. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, professor of psychology at Yale University, calls these individuals “ruminators” and says the condition affects both men and women.
Banishing the Blues
Many people can overcome the blues using a combination of lifestyle changes and mental exercises. First, don’t personalize failures and setbacks. Instead, evaluate things based on why they happened and what you can do to prevent them from occurring again. Don’t internalize problems by thinking that they only happen to you.
Next, when feelings of depression hit, get moving. Take a walk around the block or do another physical activity. Even cleaning the house for 15 minutes or playing an online game refocus your attention on something other than problems. Finally, if the fog of depression doesn’t lift after a few weeks, professional therapy can teach you effective coping mechanisms and change your outlook on life.
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