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Overcoming new year blues

Some people feel mentally or physically exhausted – or both – in the early part of a new year. Your calendar might be emptier, you may be trying to recover from time in close quarters with loved ones, or you may even feel a little disappointed by how the holidays went.

“People are naturally more reflective about their lives after the end of the year,” says Dr. Jill Amos, licensed behavioral health psychologist for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “That can sometimes result in some sadness.”

How to overcome the blues

You might want to hibernate inside on your sofa, but Dr. Amos says that may not help you.

“Get outside as much as possible,” says Amos. “It’s a good idea, even if it’s a little cold.”

Amos suggests these 5 tips:

1. Watch your carb and sugar intake. People who are feeling down sometimes tend to overeat, which can make you feel more tired, or lead to weight gain.

2. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

3. Volunteer work has been shown to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety. Food pantries, homeless shelters, and other programs can always use an extra set of helping hands.

4. Get some exercise. Research shows that in addition to being good for your body, exercise is also a mood-lifter. You don’t have to start a new, complicated routine, you could simply walk, run, dance, play a sport, swim, hike, do yoga, or whatever appeals to you.

5. Tackle a task you’ve been putting off. Clean out a closet or a chest of drawers and get rid of excess clutter. Freeing yourself from some of those unnecessary or outmoded things can make some people feel better, Dr. Amos says.

Understanding the difference between the blues and depression

If you have the blues, it’s typically a temporary situation. Amos describes it as feeling low, but still being able to carry out your normal activities. If none of those strategies seem to work or motivate you, it may be more than the post-holiday blues. You could be affected by depression.

Depression is less fleeting. It affects how you behave and your ability to live your life as usual.

According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, emptiness, or sadness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Lack of interest in your favorite activities
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Feelings of guilt or self-blame
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble concentrating

“Any big changes in mood and behavior could be a tip-off that something’s going on with a person,” says Amos.

Depression is a serious illness, but it’s not something to feel ashamed of. So it’s important to see a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing these symptoms. Medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes or some combination of these treatments may help you feel like yourself again.

Click here for more WellTuned stories on depression.

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

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