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New Year Or Just Another Day?
Many people struggle with depression, and for some, it peaks on New Year’s Eve. Those with existing depression are particularly vulnerable to the mental health challenges of this night & expectations of the new year.
The start of the new year does not have to be stressful, sad, or lonely. A few changes and new traditions can turn the new year into something positive and an evening that supports good mental health.
It can be hard to admit that New Year’s Eve isn’t your favourite time of the year. It’s supposed to be one of the best party nights of the year, a time of reflection and a time to set the tone for the coming year.
But these are unreasonable expectations for a single day or night. Let go of the expectations, enjoy this day the way you want, and focus on yourself and not what others want you to do, and you can get through this holiday to enjoy a great new year.
New Year’s Depression is a Real
It’s a well-known and researched fact that the new year's event 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 Halloween to New Year’s Eve, causes stress, anxiety, and depression for many reasons:
Stress is a major component: 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 & expensive nights out over the new year.
Isolation: some people end up isolated during new years by choice or circumstance, which can trigger depression.
Grief: is often amplified during the new years, especially if you have lost a close loved one.
Weather: the colder weather and shorter days may trigger seasonal depression, which can deepen as you approach new years.
All of these issues, and more, apply to New Year’s depression, but there’s more to this phenomenon. Loneliness and isolation are major factors. New Year’s Eve is 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 area that could be improved is the focus on reflection. Many people look over the past year and see many 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 this one night 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.
As a specialist Disability focused counselling service, we have some tips that may help you.
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 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 realise how much control you have in your life.
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 important 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 yourself, your achievements, areas that need improvement, and the type of person you want to be, regardless of others.
Engage in Distractions
Rumination is the negative cousin to reflection. Rumination is an obsessive type of thinking. People with depression tend to ruminate on negative thoughts and events, worsening depression. At this time of year, reflection can become rumination, triggering more depressive symptoms.
Distraction is a great tool for combatting this negative thought pattern. When you find yourself buried in bad thoughts, find an activity that engages your mind and body. Exercise is one of the best ways to distract from negative thoughts. When the body is engaged, it’s tough for the mind to obsess. Get out, with or without carer support, based on your circumstances, and enjoy the fresh air.
If your thoughts persist, listen to a podcast/ audiobook, or read a good book/ article.
Start a New Tradition That Makes You Happy
It’s time to let go of other people’s expectations. New Year’s Eve does not have to be a big party with a pretty dress and many friends. If that makes you feel worse, do something different. Start a tradition for New Year’s Eve that benefits your mental health.
If this means staying home with your pets and watching movies alone, do it. If you don’t want to be alone, host a small gathering or sleepover with a few close friends. You might be surprised to find that they too would also prefer a small party to a big event.
Reach Out to Others
Social isolation only worsens depression. A strong support network is a useful tool in managing depression any time of year. If New Year’s makes you feel lonely, reach out and talk to someone you trust. Ask a friend or family member to spend a quiet New Year’s Eve with you.
Specialist Information Officer and Cerebral Palsy Programme Lead
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