The events that have occurred over the past few weeks have been emotionally charged. Now the election is over and reality sets in. Days are shorter and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is already here for many.
“This is the time of the year when people are vulnerable to depression anyway,” said Dr. Thomas Nutter, assistant professor, psychiatry & behavioral neurosciences, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
“The fact that the election happened, the economy has taken a downturn and the White Sox and the Cubs disappointed us dramatically, all of these things can help depression gain a foothold in certain individuals.”
To help shake off “the Chicago blues” there are some things that the downhearted can do to lift their spirits, including remembering they are not alone.
“Close to 50 percent of the population was going to be disappointed on November 4th regardless of who won,” said Nutter, who is also medical director of Loyola’s department of psychiatry.
“However, despite the hype from both sides, great catastrophe doesn’t await the world. The sun is going to come up tomorrow. It’s not the end of the world.”
Nutter advises that no one, beyond maybe the candidates themselves, should take the outcome of the election as a personal slight against them and their opinions.
“It doesn’t mean that you and your beliefs are totally invalidated. And it doesn’t mean that you and your beliefs are going to have no voice from now until eternity, Nutter said.
“You’ll get another chance. This year your candidate lost but four years from now your candidate could win. There is cyclicity to these sorts of things.”
As with all of life’s major disappointments, it’s important and healthy to move on, Nutter said. A good beginning in this case would be to dump all the campaign signs, bumper stickers, buttons, literature and other materials of your losing candidate.
“The election is over and the choice has been made. Don’t continue to make past politics the centerpiece of your life. It’s the holiday season. Get into the spirit of things,” Nutter said.
When it comes to lifting yourself from the doldrums, no matter the cause, there are some simple things you can do that are known to work well, Nutter said.
“Exercise works. Having replenishing relationships matter. Doing things that you find rewarding and fulfilling is helpful as is attending religious services. Getting plenty of sleep and taking care of yourself works. We all have our limits and learning to live within those limits is important.” Nutter said.
“We all know these things work but don’t do what we should for optimal self-care.”
As far as your 401K, remember — the economy is also cyclical. No matter how far down it goes, it always eventually recovers.
“People need to know that even in difficult financial times, we have as a nation always rebounded,” Nutter said.
And the amount of sunlight will also rebound, which is good news for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Also known as SAD, the disorder is characterized by depression, exhaustion and lack of interest in people and regular activities and can interfere with a person’s ability to function properly.
“The most common type of this mood disorder occurs during the winter months,” said Angelos Halaris, professor of psychiatry, Stritch School of Medicine. “SAD is thought to be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain, brought on by lack of light due to winter’s shorter days and typically overcast skies.”
Halaris said that a tendency to crave sweets is common with SAD. In addition, social relationships are hindered. Here’s how to reduce the risk of developing SAD in the first place.
“If at all possible, get outside during winter, even if it is overcast,” Halaris said. “Expose your eyes to natural light for one hour each day. At home, open the drapes and blinds to let in natural light. SAD can be effectively treated with light therapy, antidepressant medication and/or psychotherapy.”
There are times, though, when a case of the blues is more serious. When the blues take hold and stay it could be a sign of clinical depression. Signs to look for include low mood lasting more than two weeks, loss of appetite or overeating, changes in energy levels, difficulties in concentrating or thoughts about death or suicide.
“Those things may herald or actually already be major depression and are not symptoms to be ignored,” Nutter said. “You should seek immediate medical attention.”
As far as the Cubs and Sox are concerned, neither Halaris nor Nutter could offer much beyond, if you’re a Sox fan, what ’til next year. If you’re a Cubs fan, wait ’til next century.
Source: Loyola University Health System