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Taking On the New Year's Blues

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One mechanism people use to control what lies ahead are New Year's resolutions -- which therapists say are often carelessly made and seldom followed through on. "The problem with resolutions are the expectations -- and most of us who make them don't make realistic ones," says Teresa Gevedon, MD, a psychiatrist at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. "I encourage goals, but setting resolutions tends to set you up to fail."

"The positive thing about resolutions is that they center on the assessment of where people are at and where they want to be -- the setting of goals," says Riley. "The negative is, folks tend to have this all or nothing idea of a resolution, and if it doesn't work out there's a sense of failure."

Pollack offers a possible solution. "My millennium resolution would be to make them so simple, clear, and immediately useful that you can't fail to achieve them." Which might mean resolving to make a small improvement in daily life -- such as paying the bills on time -- rather than promising to lose 50 pounds by spring.

Of course, before the resolutions come the celebrations -- and that's where depressed people can really get into trouble. Therapists advise that if you're feeling down about the holiday it might be a good idea to go easy on the champagne. "Alcohol is a depressant. It brings on depressing feelings," Pollack says. "Second, it has a lingering kind of impact on the depletion of energy."

"Many folks get intoxicated and put themselves at risk physically and emotionally," says Gevedon. "For someone who is depressed, alcohol is absolutely toxic." Pollack says men may particularly be at risk emotionally, because instead of thinking about pain, they try to cover it up by taking action. In the case of New Year's Eve, that might mean some very heavy-duty partying.

In the end, this New Year's Eve's position as a marker of time -- both passed and to come -- may be the most emotionally troublesome aspect. It's the likely reason why as Pollack says, the hangovers come Jan. 1 won't entirely be due to alcohol. "Amongst the so-called booming economy, we have more poverty than ever before, racial tension, pain, and heartache ... that was supposed to have been cured -- and we're supposed to be happy," Pollack says. "And that's why the millennium feels empty. And when it's all over, there will be an even deeper sense of emptiness."

His advice: Make it special, but not too special. Downplay it in advance. Make reasonable plans -- having a nice dinner for example, or making it a point to be with someone you really care about.

Martin agrees. "Gee, it's the millennium. ... I should be doing something very, very special. Whether that be a cruise to Easter Island or a $500 glass of champagne. ... What I advise people is to keep it simple. You'll have a much better time than trying to do something too expensive or too adventurous," she says.

Which certainly isn't to suggest you can't have a good time. Just be mindful that two days later for most, new century or not, it's back to the grind.

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