The holidays are a time of nonstop activity for many people. Shopping and buying gifts for loved ones, eating large and often unhealthy meals, traveling, and spending time with family can all add up to a lot of stress.
For some, the holidays bring both excitement and dread. We want to experience the magic of giving, but in reality we often end up spending more than we can afford. We want to reconnect with family and friends, but too much closeness can lead to the rekindling of old conflicts and problems. Those who are unable to visit loved ones over the holidays may feel isolated and left out. The holidays rarely meet our expectations, and we often end up feeling disappointed and upset as a result.
In January, many people tend to make resolutions to do things differently in the new year. After so much indulgence over the holidays, some vow to lose weight and become healthier but often have difficulty following through. Other common resolutions include improving our financial situations and working on our relationships, but making lasting changes in either domain can be challenging. These types of stressors in our lives can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression.
Another issue after the holiday season can be settling back into our day-to-day routines, which can be somewhat of a letdown. The reality of the credit card debt we’ve incurred or the dysfunctional family dynamics we’ve experienced can make us feel sad and discouraged. Although these feelings are not uncommon, when should we take our post-holiday blues seriously?
The following are a few of the red flags worth watching out for:
- Isolating from others. When people start to isolate from friends and family, this can be a clear sign they may be feeling depressed and could benefit from seeking out help to deal with their emotions.
- Excessive sadness or irritability. Unusual changes in moods can indicate someone is going through a difficult time. If an individual is feeling unhappy, hopeless, sad, or irritable for no particular reason, therapy can be beneficial to explore some of the underlying issues they may need to work through.
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns. Another sign to look out for would be if an individual starts to eat a lot more or less than usual. People may use food to “numb out” uncomfortable feelings or stop eating on a regular basis if feeling depressed. Deviations in sleeping habits can also be a red flag, whether the individual starts to experience insomnia or, on the contrary, sleeps a lot more than usual.
- No longer enjoying activities. Another red flag that someone may be feeling depressed would be when he or she stops appreciating activities that used to bring the person pleasure.
- Substance abuse. If an individual starts trying to cope with emotions in an unhealthy way, such as by drinking or using drugs, this can be a sign that something is amiss and help should be sought.
- Inability to function. Another sign of depression would be if someone has begun to struggle with completing normal job responsibilities or routine tasks that previously posed no problem.
- Thoughts of self-harm. Any time anyone starts thinking or talking about harming themselves, or about suicide, the person should immediately seek help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and someone is there to talk or listen whenever needed.
Although dealing with the blues around or after the holidays is not uncommon, struggling with deeper feelings of depression should always be taken seriously. If you or someone you love has been experiencing any of the warning signs above, getting professional help may be the best gift you could possibly give. It’s never too late.
© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California
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