Depression can be like an old blanket -- a smothering, sometimes comforting cloak between you and the world. Unfortunately, getting free of its symptoms is not as simple as crawling out from under the blanket. Most people experience ups and downs in the journey from depression. The fluctuations are normal, and professionals have ways of dealing with them.
While some people look forward to New Year’s parties and resolutions, others dread this traditional time to take stock and look back on the past year’s accomplishments – or lack thereof.
If you're mildly or moderately depressed already – or perhaps suffer from depression in winter -- all this taking stock of yourself can make things worse, especially if you tell yourself you never measure up.
Here, experts tell WebMD how to understand what may be behind your urge to do become blue and self-critical around the new year – and how to resist the New Year’s blues this time.
What's With the New Year’s Scorecard?
To look back at the year and what you have done is natural to a degree, says Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, PhD, professor of psychology at Yale University who has researched depression and the habit of rumination -- going over and over your problems and feelings without taking any action to overcome or solve them.
In fact, at the new year, it's difficult not to reassess at least a bit, says Nolen-Hoeksema, the author of Women Who Think Too Much. Surf the net, turn on the television or radio, and there they are -- all those "year-in-review" stories.
"The media goes over and over what happened this year," she says. So it's understandable, to some degree, that many of us do, too.
Soon after the year-in-review shows comes talk about New Year's resolutions -- and any talk about making resolutions invariably means focusing on your shortcomings, says Edward Abramson, PhD, professor of psychology emeritus at California State University Chico and author of Body Intelligence and Emotional Eating.
To make matters worse, the talk about resolution-making follows a host of holiday occasions -- whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza -- that rarely live up to expectations, Abramson adds. And some people may blame themselves for that, too.
If you're already depressed, you may rate yourself and your accomplishments lower than others would, Nolen-Hoeksema says.