Last month we discussed the stress of getting ready for the holidays and the disappointments we sometimes experience when holidays actually arrive. Another difficult aspect of the season can be the let down feeling so many of us have once a holiday has come and gone. Perhaps family members traveled from a distance to share the holiday. Now they have departed and the house seems empty. If they live more than a short distance away, we may be unsure about the next visit. When will we see them again? Will they come to the Upper Valley or will we be able to travel to visit them?
If there are young children involved, it may be difficult to envision ways to stay connected. How can we find ways to help the youngsters know the elder members of the family? The older generation may need help picturing the daily lives of the younger members of the family who live far away. These issues can create a greater sense of distance and separation from family members who live at a distance.
As we cope with the issues of separation and let down after the excitement of the holidays, our winter climate can add to the stress. Usually, the weather brings its most challenging winter temperatures and the most difficult winter driving just after the holidays. Winter weather conditions can bring on another type of stress. Scientists refer to Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder (SADD) and attribute it to the relative lack of sunlight. In the Upper Valley, we have known it for years as cabin fever.
Bitter cold and hazardous driving conditions can isolate us from the outside world. It is difficult to be outside; it is easy to settle into the sofa and hibernate when the thermometer routinely shows temperatures below zero, cars won’t start, and the outside world threatens frostbite. Studies show that incidents of domestic violence and suicide attempts increase during these coldest months of the year. Remaining indoors isolated from interactions with the outside world creates a great deal of stress. Coinciding with the let down after the holidays, cabin fever sometimes brings on a feeling of being overwhelmed. It feels hopeless. Will the cold ever end? How can we stay connected to those family members at a distance who we miss so much? Why do I feel so sad? How can I feel better?
Having an outlet for stress, anxiety and depression during the winter months and after the holidays can be especially important. Questions like the ones above can be discussed with a professional who will listen carefully, offer perspective, and help you remember that you do not have to endure the stress of midwinter alone. Finding ways to manage stress, mitigate the symptoms of mid-winter cabin fever and work through the underlying issues can go much more quickly with help from an Upper Valley counselor. If you’re struggling this winter, get in touch. We’re ready to help.