Festive and Pre-Spring ‘Blues’
The Christmas and New Year festive season can be a time of happiness celebration and reconnection with family members but for some, it can also be a time of stress, sadness or loneliness. Even those who are usually content can experience a lack of fulfillment at this time. It can feel isolating, and those feelings of isolation can make the festive ‘blues’ feel worse.
Christmas has passed and we are into a new year now but spring and the longer, lighter days seem a long way away and for many people, this time of year can also be difficult.
Festive and pre-spring ‘blues’ feel very similar to mild depression but it is important to know that it doesn’t necessarily meet the criteria for a depression diagnosis because the symptoms generally don’t last long enough or are as severe.
Typical symptoms of the festive/pre-spring ‘blues’ might include:
- Anxiety and agitation
- Inability to concentrate
- Appetite changes – eating more or little
- Sleep problems (too much or too little)
- Irrational feelings of guilt
- Decreased interest in sex, work or hobbies, family and friends
Often, the feelings associated with the festive/pre-spring ‘blues’ can be a response to an interruption in normal schedules and routines that bring most people comfort. This can leave them feeling out of balance and out of control.
Ways to beat the festive/pre-spring ‘blues’:
- Good self care i.e. eating regular meals – healthy nutritious food, exercising regularly (even walking is good) and getting plenty of rest and relaxation
- Often, during the festive and pre-spring period, people get depressed because they are disconnected from their family or friends – perhaps they live far away or relationships are strained. There should be no obligation to celebrate this period of time and if the shorter days prevent traveling to see others perhaps due to not feeling safe during the early dark evenings – this just needs voicing. However it is good to identify personal ways to spend the time during this period. Whatever works for an individual person is right, not what works for others/what others want and expect
- It can be helpful to do something special for ourselves during this time – it doesn’t matter what it is – a special meal, watch a favorite movie, go to a special place, doing something which is meaningful for us personally can help lift spirits
- It is important to acknowledge and acceptthat there is nothing wrong with feeling a little low during this period . People with the festive/pre-spring ‘blues’ often feel guilty because they think there is something wrong with them for not being happy during this time of celebrations and a new year with spring and summer on the horizon. Anyone can be affected during this time, sometimes we are hard on ourselves and beat ourselves up over things – which then augments the way we might feel. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people as well as help others. Helping others always provides an emotional boost
- Overindulgence on food or alcohol is a short term fix and will make the physical and emotional feelings worse when the short term ‘fix’ wears off
- Dwelling on the past or anything negative is unproductive. The past is past and can’t be changed. All that can be controlled is the present and the future, so focusing on positive possibilities and identifying and setting goals for the future is important
If symptoms get worse or continue after the festive, spring/summer period or if there were any self harm thoughts or thoughts of harming others a medical professional i.e. GP or the Mental Health Crisis Team -(http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/mental-health-emergency) should be contacted. This could indicate seasonal affective disorder or some other depressive condition but only a medical professional can diagnose and treat this.
Remember that the festive/pre-spring ‘blues’ are common and can affect anyone. With good self-care and management techniques, people can get through this period and feel more positive towards their future.
Self help resources:
Depression at Christmas – a survival guide http://www.actionondepression.org/sites/default/files/factsheets/Christmas-2012.pdf
Coping with Christmas – a survival guide when festivities are tough http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2013/12/coping_with_christmas
NHS choices – stress, anxiety and depression http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/ways-relieve-stress.aspx