Post Holiday Depression is a real problem, especially for those that may be a bit more isolated during the rest of the year, including the elderly and in some cases those with disabilities who may have a harder time getting out and about.
To start with, in the USA, the season tends to be darker. What light there is gets filtered through more of the atmosphere and the light is not as bright. The “shortest” day of the year is typically December 21st and the timing couldn’t be much worse. Plus, it is colder and for many, hazards such as ice and snow may make it difficult to go out safely. Gift-giving and hosting may stretch budgets and those credit bills start flowing in January, as do the higher heating bills.
And thoughts turn toward completing one’s taxes. All-in-all, it might not be the cheeriest time of year except for die-hard skiers. So, plan for it!
Yep – so plan for it – happens every year, like clock-work, but more so as circumstances change. Realize the effects those changes will have, and perhaps spend a little less money, maybe get one of those winter-time natural white “happy-lights “. Cut yourself a little slack on the New Year’s resolutions – maybe even make cutting yourself some slack as one of them. Recognize that there WILL be a little letdown for everyone, including you. Do things that compensate for it to level out the dip in energy.
BEING AROUND PEOPLE
The n4a has a great 2017 program called “EXPAND YOUR CIRCLES -Prevent Isolation and Loneliness As You Age.” The premise of the program is “Older adults who describe themselves as lonely have a 59 percent greater risk of functional decline and a 45 percent greater risk of death”, which is based on research studies including “Loneliness Linked to Serious Health Problems and Death among Older Adults,” University of California San Francisco (June 2012)”. AARP found that prolonged isolation can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Here is a good resource which also includes a checklist to give someone an objective assessment of risk, and some great ways to minimize it: http://www.n4a.org/Files/Isolation%20BrochureFINAL.pdf
LOOKING FORWARD – in a positive way
It can be helpful to acknowledge negative thought flows – an immediate response to questions is “no”. Or when I see something new, I immediately don’t like it and quickly pick something potentially negative about it to focus on. Realize this is happening. See that the gut response is not in measure with the stimulus. Know to look deeper to see what is really bothering you.
Without observing the problem, solutions will be meaningless.
When you are feeling down after the holidays, it’s harder to find “good things”. Like a diet or other things we do to recover from the holidays, it might help to exercise ones positive vibes. A set of “push-ups” might be “find 5 things that are pretty good today”. Or which colors make me happy, and then look hard and find that color 5 times today. If there don’t tend to be a lot of magic wands here, make headway over the holiday funk in smaller bites. Find those tasty bites.
BE HEALTHY NOW
If you are taking anti-depressants, post-holiday might not be the best time to stop. Consult with your doctor before making this News Years resolution. The holiday diet can be pretty sugary and coming off that roller-coaster can be tough. Getting back to healthy portions, and getting off the couch and being active will help. Physical Activity has been shown to be helpful (footnote 1).
GET OUTSIDE, SOMEHOW
This may not be easy, but the light and fresh air can be invigorating. Senior Centers may be able to aid in transportation. To your surprise, a neighbor or niece you don’t talk to very much might be delighted to take you to the park next week, but they had no way of knowing you wanted this without you mentioning it. “Cabin Fever” - a term first used in 1918 - is real – get out of the cabin!
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE LULLS
Don’t use last year as a reason to beat up on yourself – that will only make things worse. Write down something positive from each experience and incorporate it in your plan to have a great year. List of goals and make a plan to get closer to them. The goals don’t have to be big, they just have to be positive. Take a class – many are free! Senior Centers, Centers for Independent
Living and Area Agencies on Aging often have programs at this time of year to fend of post- holiday isolation. Try something you have never done before! It doesn’t have to be climbing Mt Everest (Denali). It can be learn a new Spanish word each week, or read a new book every month, or almost anything.
There are your personal support groups of BFFs and official ones on a variety of subject areas and segments of life. You or loved one are NOT the first ones to go through this, and oddly enough, though you may be unique - your situation may be not be as unique as you thought.
1. Physical Activity, Walking, and Quality of Life in Women with Depressive Symptoms
Kristiann C. Heesch, DrPH, Yolanda R. van Gellecum, MSocSci, Nicola W. Burton, PhD, Jannique G.Z. van Uffelen, PhD, Wendy J. Brown, PhD, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, March 2015 Vol. 48, Issue 3, pp 281-291