It’s a well-known and researched fact that the holiday season worsens or triggers mental health symptoms in many people. If you already have depression, this time of year can make it worse, but even people without diagnosed mental illness are vulnerable.
The entire season, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, causes stress, anxiety, and depression for many reasons:
- Stress is a major component of holiday blues. The stress associated with buying gifts, making big dinners, and attending parties can become overwhelming.
- High expectations also trigger bad feelings, especially if you can’t meet them.
- Finances cause a great deal of anxiety this time of year, particularly when coupled with the expectations of gift buying.
- Some people end up isolated during the holidays, which can trigger depression.
- Grief is often amplified at the holidays, especially if you have lost a close loved one.
- The colder weather and shorter days may trigger seasonal depression.
All of these issues, and more, apply to New Year’s depression as well, but there’s more to this phenomenon. Loneliness and isolation are major factors. New Year’s Eve is a time when people are expected to be around friends, partying and kissing someone at midnight. If you don’t have these things, it can feel like a failure.
Another issue that differs from the rest of the holiday season is the focus on reflection. Many people look over the past year and see a lot of disappointments. This is especially a problem if you tend to compare your own achievements with those of others.
The expectations of New Year’s Eve are huge, but another problem is the expectation for a new beginning. Many people feel as if this one holiday should set the tone for the rest of the year, which is unreasonable. If the night doesn’t go well, it does not mean the next 365 days will also be disappointing, but this is how many feel.
1. Embrace the New Year With Mental Health Resolutions
If you struggle with depression or other mental illnesses, this is a great opportunity to set goals for better mental health. Setting resolutions can bring a sense of hope to the coming year, but it can also be disappointing. Set goals that are reasonable and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Here are some good examples:
- Surround yourself with people who make you happy and begin to cut ties to those who do not.
- Bring your focus to what you can control in your own life.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Get professional mental health treatment.
These are resolutions you can manage. When you meet them, it will boost your self-esteem and help you realize how much control you have in your life.
2. Reflect on Your Accomplishments, Not Those of Others
Did you fail to meet last year’s resolutions? Did you watch other people achieve goals and do great things while you struggled? Did you have a rough year? Reflecting on the past year can be a positive experience, but also a difficult one.
Reflection can be beneficial if you do it right. Make a list of what you accomplished, no matter how small. For example, if you wanted to lose 20 pounds but only lost 10, view it as a win, not a failure. Most importantly of all, avoid comparing yourself to others. Life is not a competition. It helps to take a break from social media, one of the most insidious comparison tools. Focus on you, your achievements, areas that need improvement, and the type of person you want to be, regardless of others.