With the holiday season long gone, for many individuals the cold gray days of early January through the remainder of the winter season often bring an overwhelming sense of despair, misery and depression.
When combining lack of sunlight, shorter days, financial concerns, loneliness, time pressures, family problems and setting expectations too high, it can all lead to what many call the “winter blues.” A variety of symptoms can lead to this condition and it’s important to realize when those indicators are a sign of major depression or anxiety.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during the winter months. It’s estimated that SAD affects up to 20 percent of Americans, and that number could increase this year following the contentious November elections.
It’s important to keep everything in perspective during the winter months, especially for those individuals beginning the New Year with high expectations that don’t come to fruition, creating an overwhelming sense of depression.
Ideas to cope with seasonal stress include keeping expectations manageable and setting realistic goals; doing something for someone else, such as volunteering at a homeless shelter; staying active and hitting the gym to relieve stress and gain powerful endorphins; enjoying free activities; spending time with supportive and caring people and limiting alcohol consumption.
Chronic stress may be a trigger for certain anxiety disorders and other illnesses. In addition, post-holiday blues can also develop after the hustle and bustle of the holidays subside and families return to their homes, leaving older relatives and friends alone.
Symptoms of depression and chronic stress include loss of enjoyment in daily activities, sleep disruption, loss of appetite, feeling sad or empty, guilt, and even thoughts of dying or suicide. Stress can also be a very serious health issue. Headaches, upset stomach, heart palpitations and nervousness are all symptoms of stress, and when left untreated, stress can also cause confusion, poor judgment, digestive problems and a suppressed immune system.
Mental health experts acknowledge that some stress is normal, but suggest that when someone feels overwhelmed for an extended period of time, professional help should be procured.
Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health was established in 1969 as the first mental health center in Indiana and offers an array of mental health services, including severe mental illness and substance abuse treatment, 24-hour emergency services, a detoxification unit, a full continuum of care for people with chronic addiction, specialized home- and community-based programs for children and adolescents with serious emotional disorders, and a partial-hospitalization program. For more information about the services offered at Eskenazi Health Midtown, please call 317-880-8491.
Dr. Nydia Nunez-Estrada
Eskenazi Health Urgent Care East