Happy New Year! But what if it isn’t happy for you? It can be lonely and isolating when you don’t feel the expected rush of excitement for a brand-new year. Anxiety and depression are known to be especially intense during the holidays, but what may not be as well known is that for many people those feelings can linger or even increase.
If you are experiencing these issues, the first thing you should know is that you are not alone, and that this can be a common problem. The next thing you should know is how to combat anxiety and depression—and these strategies will be valuable not just at the beginning of the year, but all year long.
What Triggers Anxiety and Depression in the New Year?
There can be several reasons why you are feeling heightened depression or anxiety as another year begins. Here are some common triggers:
- The pressure to set a goal can be daunting, especially for people with anxiety or depression. There can be significant worry about what resolution to set, how to meet it, and what happens if there is failure to meet the goal. That potential for failure can also be a cause for depression. For some people, just the act of setting a goal seems impossible because their depression is so severe that they simply don’t have the energy or stamina to move forward.
- There is a reason everyone sets a resolution to change something about themselves at the beginning of a new year. This is a time that is considered a “fresh start,” but this can spark a wave of anxiety over what any potential change may look like. Fear about the unknown can lead to a lot of “what ifs” and catastrophizing, which is a singular focus on the worst-case scenario.
- The holidays. If you struggled with anxiety and depression during the holidays, those feelings don’t magically disappear when the clock strikes midnight on December 31. Any sense of loss, grief, guilt, or sadness may still seem fresh, especially if you didn’t get to resolve the issues underlying those feelings.
- Seasonal affective disorder. The acronym for this condition, SAD, is all too appropriate. If you suffer from SAD, your depression can be tied to the fall and winter seasons, when shorter days, less light, and colder weather can wreak havoc with the body’s brain and biological clock. This can lead to depression, along with other physical symptoms such as weight gain and lack of energy due to a disruption to normal sleep patterns.
How to Combat Anxiety and Depression
It’s important to first recognize the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Depression can be marked by feelings of emptiness or hopelessness, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, lack of focus or energy, problems eating or sleeping, irritability, or suicidal ideation. These feelings usually must occur every day for more than two consecutive weeks to be considered a depressive episode.
An anxiety disorder brings with it an extremely intense worry or fear. These worries can be generalized, or revolve around particular issues such as separation, panic attacks, or social interaction. The specific symptoms can vary depending on the type of anxiety you are dealing with, but generally the fear is so strong that it manifests in physical and psychological issues that can disrupt normal life.
If you find that you are dealing with anxiety or depression, there are several things you can do to help alleviate symptoms:
- Try medication. Especially for depression, your care provider may suggest trying a drug to see if it helps with your symptoms. Antidepressants are powerful drugs so it is important to talk with your doctor about potential risks and side effects, and follow the dosage instructions carefully; your physician should also be heavily involved in the process to ensure you get the desired results or tweak the medication dosage if needed.
- Pursue therapy. There are many types of therapeutic models that can be beneficial. Among them are talking with a counselor; examining how thoughts and feelings are processed, and learning new ways to do so, with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; learning to regulate emotions and stress with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy; and undergoing longer-term treatment with psychotherapy. The latter may also involve medication, depending on your condition, the severity of symptoms, and other factors.
- Adopt stress-management techniques. When the first trickle of fear or sadness comes on, it can help to calm your body and mind with relaxation techniques. These can include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, or yoga, among others. These techniques help your body to release and let go of fear and stress and clear your mind to focus on the present, and not worry about the future or the past. It also can be helpful to create a safe space to go when you need to use these techniques, such as a room with soft lighting, calming music, and even incense or aromatherapy oils. It can help generate a soothing effect.
- Eat well and exercise. A healthy diet of whole foods can help you feel good physically, which in turn can help you feel good mentally, too. Exercise is a great mood booster, too. Always make sure to drink lots of water and cut back on alcohol and caffeine, which can be dehydrating.
- Do something that brings joy. A hobby or activity that you enjoy can transform your mood and gives you a place to channel the energy you’d normally spend on anxious thoughts. As you pursue a passion, whether it is knitting or photography or playing tennis, you may experience a lift in mood because you are doing something you love.
- Make connections. Don’t isolate yourself when you feel depressed or anxious. Develop a social network of friends or loved ones you wouldn’t hesitate to turn to in a crisis and who would be sympathetic listeners. On the flip side, don’t nurture relationships that are negative or will bring you down.
- Don’t take on more than you can handle. You may feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, but you shouldn’t be. Really examine the issue in your life that is causing you problems. If you are anxious about a situation, realize that some things may be beyond your control. If you have social anxiety, you can control how you introduce yourself to someone new, but you can’t control their response, and worrying won’t change that.
Anxiety and depression are serious and not to be taken lightly. If you are struggling, you can start this year by seeking treatment. At Casa Palmera, we specialize in treating anxiety and depression, and our caring and dedicated staff works hard to help instill each patient we treat with hope and a renewed sense of purpose. If you are ready to get the help you need and deserve, visit our website today.