Rebounding from post-holiday blues

Joseph Doherty

The holiday season is meant to be happy with family and friends arranging social events to celebrate a joyful time of year.

Office parties and dinners are planned and gifts exchanged. Parents look forward to expressions of delight on the faces of their young children as gifts from Santa are opened. The approach of a New Year brimming with possibilities is anticipated.

Yet not all experience the delights of the holiday season. It can be, and is, a depressing time for some. While people can sink into a depressive state at any given period throughout the year, the holiday season can send some into a low mood. This is understandable when you consider it is also a hectic time of year, what with navigating the traffic, both vehicular and foot, at malls, finding the right gifts, preparing dinners and parties, buying a tree and setting up lights. It is only natural to feel some sort of let down after the holidays end, much like students experience after exams. These low moods though, are generally situational and transitory. One’s spirits rebound fairly quickly.

Depression is another matter. While some depressions can be seasonal, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, which occurs primarily in women during the bleak winter months, over a two-year period, but is not experienced in other seasons, most other depressive states are longer lasting.

Symptoms of depression include tiredness or fatigue, loss of interest in people and activities, changes in appetite, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, loss of pleasure, feeling one is a failure, being self-critical, feelings of sadness and self-distain, changes in sleeping patterns, changes in appetite and self-injurious wishes or thoughts.

The good news is that depression is treatable. A variety of anti-depressant medications are available and are quite effective. A variety of talk therapies are available as well, one of them being cognitive therapy.

One of the prime proponents of cognitive therapy is a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Aaron Beck who began to study depression in the 1940s. Based upon his research, Beck came up with a theory of depression in the 1960s. According to his theory, people become depressed due to there having faulty cognitions or thoughts. Or, to put it another way, a person has distorted negative thinking that causes them to become and stay depressed. The remedy, says Beck, is to identify and correct the negative thoughts.

An example may help. Let’s say a person employed in government is studying for an exam to advance to a higher position. After expending tremendous time and energy studying they take, and fail, the examination.

Their thinking may include thoughts such as “I’m a failure,” “I’ll never amount to anything,” and “My life is ruined.” It is not difficult to imagine that such thoughts could lead one to be depressed.

Using cognitive therapy, the person would examine his or her thinking. In doing so, they would see that they are not a failure, as they have a job, family and friends. The thought that they will never amount to anything is distorted because they have amounted to something: they have employment. As for the thought “My life is ruined,” that cannot possibly be true as no one’s life is ruined due to failing an examination. If this were true, there would be a lot of ruined live.

Since such negative, distorted thoughts lead to a person becoming depressed, correcting them leads to the depression being lifted. Beck’s theory has been researched and studied and found to be quite effective. Another psychiatrist, David Burns, who has written the book, “Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy,” has popularized it.

So, if you find yourself not rebounding from the holidays you might ask yourself if your mood needs attending to. Help is available and it is quite effective.