Following the bustling activity that accompanies the holiday season, people often experience a bout of the listlessness, lethargy, and sadness characteristic of depression—-particularly on the first Monday of the New Year. In many parts of the world, the biting cold, darker days, and lack of social stimulation trigger symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). With the “brutal cold” temperatures currently sweeping through several parts of the United States, this year’s “blue Monday” effect is expected to be especially pronounced.
Dr. Angelo Halaris, a psychiatrist with the Loyola University Medical Center, said in a recent report that this wave of post-holiday depression may extend for days or even weeks in January. Along with the short days and extreme cold, he attributes the “mental and physical exhaustion” that set in once the eating, drinking, and socializing of holiday gatherings dies down as being another major factor in SAD.
Considering that the lack of light in the winter months plays a huge part in influencing these feelings of sadness and fatigue, treatments involving light therapy have been shown to alleviate symptoms. One contraption that may help is a headband that delivers light to the retina of the person wearing it. Sun lamps, light boxes, and dawn simulators are also available in stores and online. Many of these are portable.
Because bright light has such a positive effect on brain chemistry, Halaris encourages those who are feeling downhearted this time of year to brave the cold and get outside, even if it is overcast. Simply soaking in a small amount of natural light can do wonders for a darkened mental and emotional state.
Loyola Medicine. (2014, January 3). Blue Monday: brutal cold, short days, post-holiday letdown raise risk of depression. Retrieved from http://loyolamedicine.org/newswire/news/blue-monday-brutal-cold-short-days-post-holiday-letdown-raise-risk-depression
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