Are you struggling with winter depression or the holiday blues this year? If so, you should know that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Many people in recovery experience depression at some point or another throughout the year, especially those who are adjusting to sober life after rehab or transitioning into a sober living program.
Depression is not uncommon in addiction or recovery, but there are several ways to manage symptoms and improve overall personal wellness in the process. But before we delve into solutions, let’s talk about the causes of seasonal depression.
Holiday Depression: Why It Happens
Christmas and New Year’s are expected to be a time for celebration, happiness, and holiday cheer, but many people struggle with the depression this time of year too. Holiday depression and winter blues are very real, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).1
Although the winter blues is not a medical diagnosis, it is a very common condition and hospitals and emergency responders report higher incidences of suicide and attempted suicide during this time of year. Mental health professionals also report a significant increase in people complaining about depression during the holiday season.2
The NIH states several different possible causes for the winter blues, including:
- Painful reminders of absent loved ones
- Stress associated with the holidays
- Fewer daylight hours
- Hormonal changes
- Unrealistic expectations about the holiday experience
- Excessive self-reflection
Newly sober individuals may also experience holiday depression as they reflect on past alcohol or drug abuse and the people they hurt in the process, or they may feel a lack of purpose in life after getting sober.
Unlike major depression, the holiday blues are short-lived and you can expect to emerge from this emotional slump soon, but be aware that the transition will be gradual. If you suffer from depression year-round, your therapist, counselor, or doctor can help you manage your symptoms during the holiday season and throughout the year.
Common Symptoms of the Winter Blues
You may be experiencing the winter blues without even realizing it. Medical professionals often refer to the winter blues as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and common symptoms include3,4:
- Social withdrawal
- Weight gain
Newly sober individuals may be at higher risk for experiencing holiday depression because they are more susceptible to stress. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or in loved ones, you should seek professional help from a counselor, doctor, or therapist.
5 Tips to Help You Maintain Your Sobriety and Deal with the Holiday Blues
It is entirely possible to maintain your sobriety during the holidays and year-round, even while dealing with the winter blues or seasonal depression. Here are a few tips to help manage symptoms of depression in addiction recovery, whether you’re enrolled in a transitional living program or you’re living at home.5
- Ask for help. House managers, counselors, and your sober peers in your transitional living program can all provide support if you find yourself struggling with seasonal depression. Chances are, many of the individuals in your sober living program have also experienced the same thing and can provide personal insight and advice on managing those emotional difficulties.
- Spend time with friends and family. Even though you may not feel motivated to be social, doing so can help lift your spirits and provide companionship during a time when you need it most. A few great ways to get social include attending a support meeting, participating in a group outing with other residents in your sober living program, eating a meal with family members, or volunteering with a local organization.
- Plan. If you know the holidays are typically a difficult time for you, it might be a good idea to plan out your activities, meals, and free time so you don’t end up spending it alone or bored. While it’s good to relax and have some downtime, too much of it could leave you to linger on thoughts of substance abuse and cravings. A lack of planning could also lead to last-minute scrambling, which can be extremely stressful, especially during the holiday season.
- Take care of yourself. It’s easy to binge on sweets, neglect your workout routine, and make excuses for missing support group meetings during the holidays, but it’s essential to maintain a healthy routine and prioritize self-care to maintain your sobriety. This might take a little more effort and planning during the holiday season, but it’s well worth it. If you are struggling to maintain a healthy routine, you may need to ask your sponsor or a trusted sober peer in your sober living program to help keep you accountable.
- Do something different. Sometimes starting a new holiday tradition or trying a new activity can help break up the monotony of everyday life. Doing something different like exploring a local park you’ve never been to or going ice skating with a sober friend can provide much-needed change and excitement.
Maintaining your sobriety at any time of the year or in any stage of addiction recovery can be a challenge. Eudaimonia Recovery Homes provides sober living homes and recovery support services for men and women who are recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Our transitional housing programs offer safe, supportive living spaces with peer accountability and plenty of resources to help keep you on track.
If you or a loved one needs additional support this holiday season, please call Eudaimonia Recovery Homes today to learn more about our support services.