t he holidays are over and it’s back to work and school. Blah.
For many, January is the gloomiest month of the year with its cold weather and dark days. Throw in some Christmas debt, holiday weight gain and failed resolutions, and the malaise called the January blues is the result.
For some people, the January blues actually signal clinical depression. For others, the blues can actually kick start exercise or activity programs. For everyone, the after-the-holidays season marks a time for change.
Deeper than blue
While the January blues affect a wide swath of people, there are some individuals who battle clinical depression after the holidays. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depression that occurs at the same time every year. Symptoms sometimes start as early as autumn and continue on into the winter months and include lack of energy and mood swings.
“SAD is a true medical disorder,” said Dr. Drew Werner.
Various treatments for SAD include light therapy, medication, ionized-air administration, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and carefully timed supplementation of the hormone melatonin.
“For some, going on an antidepressant for half the year, or upping the dosage for half the year, helps,” said Werner.
There are also creative ways to administer light therapy. There are three major dosing dimensions of light therapy. Optimum effect requires that the dose be individualized, just as for medications, so a trip to the doctor is still in order. Light intensity, light duration and time of day of exposure are the three things docs looks at when determining what individuals need.
“It most definitely has to do with light,” says Werner. “Light stimulates our brains.”
Homeopathic remedies include St. John’s wort and jasmine. Also, color therapy such as incorporating warm colors such as yellow, orange and red into your bathroom, bedroom or work area can help. Some believe that certain music compositions or meditation boosts their mood. Spiritual practices are an antidote for others.
Eagle mom and high school teacher Nicole Dewell says that teachers are always on the look-out for students who seem to be struggling during the holidays and afterwards. For some people, the holidays are far from the hope and joy that are often portrayed. Teachers are very aware of that and attempt to get help for students who seem to need it.
The most important thing is sufferers shouldn’t brush off their symptoms or try to suck it up if they wake up feeling blue every year at the same time of year. If it’s an annual thing, it’s most likely not a case of the “winter blues” and sufferers may need a little help to beat the yearly seasonal funk. Getting some outside help for this issue, as with all medical issues, is nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t be afraid to see a trusted professional to help feel better.
Getting outdoors and exercising are the first things most doctors suggest to those suffering from January blues. Werner said that feeling good has a lot to do with the basics.
“If you’re not exercising, eating well, and sleeping well, don’t expect to feel well,” he said.
Werner also said that even with the basics being met, it’s still common to feel low during the winter months. While Colorado residents are fortunate with their constant blue skies and bright sunshine, it still gets dark earlier in the day and the weather is cold.
Dewell’s prescription to lift her spirits is hitting the slopes.
“Skiing even on the darkest days helps me cope with the long, cold winter days,” she said.
If it is just a case of the temporary blues, Eagle resident Tammi Wiemer thinks getting through January is all about positive thinking and optimism.
“It’s just the thought that a year has passed and all that went with it,” said Wiemer. “Now I get a new one to try again.”
Gypsum mother of five Melanie Pates says that she doesn’t feel like she has time to rejuvenate during the holidays because she always has at least two kids in basketball, which is on-going during the holiday season. But she still manages to make something happen for her family.
“Every year, we offer all five kids, plus us parents, the option of putting some of their Christmas money into a pot and going to do something fun as a family.” Once the money is collected, the family agrees on a date that works for everyone before the spring season. In the past, the family has trekked off to spend the night at a hotel and driven to Denver to eat at a buffet before hitting a movie.
“It gives everyone something to look forward to and a reason to keep going until the weather gets nice again,” said Pates.
At least it isn’t a Russian novel
For the past seven years, the Eagle Public Library has helped residents weather the January blues by providing an interesting context — life may be a bit gloomy, but at least it isn’t like a Russian novel.
“It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s depressing — what more could you want than a Russian writer?” said librarian Jaci Spuhler.
While Spuhler is the local history librarian for the Eagle Valley Library District, she majored in Russian literature during college and she spent much of her career working as a State Department librarian. She has traveled extensively in the former Soviet Union. So, it is with authority, that she can declare “Our lives never feel as bad after reading a Russian novel.”
This year’s selection is “Envy” by Yuri Olesha. Spuhler describes it as a “humorous” offering, but warned readers that Russian novels have a unique definition of “humor.”
Readers usually pick up the library’s Russian reading club selection some time after the holidays and then beginning Feb. 1, Spuhler sends out daily email fun facts for participants. The group then gathers for a potluck discussion in late February.
Spuhler said that serious reading material has struck a chord with many locals to weather the winter blues.
“People just keep coming back. You would think they would be really depressed by now,” she said with a laugh.
“If you’re not exercising, eating well, and sleeping well, don’t expect to feel well.”
Dr. Drew Werner