Many people look forward to and prepare for the holiday season all year long. But now that Santa has crawled down the chimney, the holiday music has subsided and seasonal decorations have been packed up, many people leave the holiday season behind with psychological whiplash.
The holidays are emotional and, for some, their experience can be similar to a roller coaster. Expectations may have been unmet, feelings of loneliness from loved ones lost may have surfaced, and guilt from overindulgence can all impact one’s seasonal experience. Plus the serious winter weather has set in. When you finally take a step off the holiday roller coaster, you might feel a little down. This mild form of depression is not only common, but is most often referred to as the “winter blues.”
The following symptoms may be associated with the winter blues: fatigue, difficulty concentrating, overeating, increased alcohol use, irritability, sadness, anger, guilt and anxiety. During the first few months after the holiday season, f you find yourself experiencing a collection of the symptoms, there are steps you can take to get on track:
• Get some light: Bring more light into your life. Make an effort to expose yourself to sunlight in the early morning. The more light you can experience during the day, the better you will feel. Try to get up earlier in the winter to take full advantage of the daytime sun. If you can’t get up earlier, go outside periodically through the day or sit by a large window, even on cloudy days.
• Move your body: Aerobic exercise has been proven to reduce stress and improve mood. Going skiing, taking a brisk walk, or heading to the gym can positively impact people suffering from the winter blues.
• Make healthy choices: Instead of eating junk food and sugars that our body craves during the winter months, try to eat larger portions of complex carbohydrates like wheat pasta and brown rice. Also try simple carbohydrates such as fruits and fruit juices to avoid instant relief that leads ultimately to decreased energy.
• Make plans: Having something to look forward to is not only motivating but makes getting through tough moments a little easier. Start training for a spring 5K walk/run, schedule time to read a new book or book a mid-winter weekend getaway.
• Seek help: If the holiday season has left you a little down and you just cannot seem to kick it, do not be afraid to seek help. Help comes in many forms. Professional health care services are available for more severe cases, and loved ones or friends might be able to assist in mild cases. The most important thing is to reach out for help and not try to suffer alone. Just the act of reaching out can work to improve one’s mood.
Elizabeth Eckley is the community mobilizer for Centre County Communities that Care. This weekly column is a collaboration of Centre County Communities that Care serving Bald Eagle, Bellefonte, Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola area school districts, and Care Partnership: Centre Region Communities that Care serving the State College Area School District.