For some people, the end of the holiday season is a major relief. Even with family gatherings and holiday cheer, the holidays are a financially, physically, and emotionally draining time of year. According to a survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people are affected by holiday depression, and it’s often triggered by emotional, financial, and physical stresses.
Meanwhile, for others, coming down from the high after the holiday season can trigger a bout of post-holiday blues. So, what exactly are the post-holiday blues, and what are the best ways to deal with sadness after the holidays?
What are post-holiday blues?
Post-holiday blues also referred to as post-vacation syndrome, can hit after the intense emotions and high stress levels of the holidays.
Post-holiday depression shares many of the same symptoms of depression, including fatigue, feelings of sadness and loneliness, low mood, and difficulty concentrating. However, unlike clinical depression, post-holiday depression is short-term rather than long-term.
What causes post-holiday depression?
Although there’s relatively little research on the cause of post-holiday depression, mental health experts generally agree that the adrenaline comedown after the holidays is responsible for feelings of sadness. The sudden withdrawal of stress hormones after a major event, whether it’s social events, family gatherings, or the holiday season, can have a significant impact on our mental health.
But stress hormones are only one part of the equation. The contrast effect, a form of cognitive bias where the perception of differences is enhanced due to exposure to something with similar characteristics but different key qualities, also plays a role in post-holiday blues.
Essentially, the contrast effect is the brain’s way of trying to restore order while adjusting between different experiences. For most people, half of the month of December is a major departure from a normal routine.
Coping with Post-Holiday Depression
Snapping out of the post-holiday funk requires dedicating some extra time to taking care of your mind and body. To cope with post-holiday blues, try the following techniques:
Focus on your diet and sleep schedule.
It’s easier to handle feelings of sadness and loneliness when your body feels good. After the holiday season, eating a balanced diet and getting a good night’s sleep are some of the best things you can do for your body.
If you’re struggling to take back control of your sleep schedule after holiday chaos, resist the temptation to use your phone and avoid doing anything else in bed other than sleep, including doing homework, socializing, and watching TV.
Practice mindfulness and meditation techniques.
Taking the time to give yourself a pep talk might sound pointless, but it’s worth trying. When you’re in a state of mindfulness, try vocalizing your goals or New Year’s resolutions for the next year and how you’re going to achieve them. To combat sadness, use realistic stepping stones to motivate yourself and remind yourself where you want to go.
Additionally, practicing simple mindful thinking in a dark room or using a guided meditation app can help you ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you’re not sure how to get started, countless guided meditation apps are freely available to help you live a stress-free lifestyle.
Make time for self-care.
During the holiday season, it’s easy to get so busy that you overlook your own needs, which can leave you feeling drained and overwhelmed once the new year rolls around. Making time for self-care can help you enjoy moments that are just for you, giving your mind and body an opportunity to rest and relax.
Think about it: taking care of your mental health can help you cope better with the stresses of whatever life throws at you. When you’re more resilient, you’re less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Consider setting New Year’s resolutions to get into the habit of carving out time for yourself every day, even if it’s as simple as playing video games, painting your nails, or reading a book.
Surround yourself with loved ones.
The benefits of surrounding yourself with a supportive social network can be both far-reaching and long-lasting. In fact, research has shown that spending time with loved ones is good for our physical health—increasing our immunity and longevity. Social interaction can also help fight loneliness after the holiday season, reduce stress, and improve your overall outlook.
To start, make a list of people in your life who are supportive and lift you up when you’re feeling down. Next, schedule a conversation, video call, or some upcoming time to spend together.
If you’re stuck in a rut, reach out to close friends or family members to express your thoughts and feelings. The people who love you and care about you will be happy to support you and remind you how much you mean to them.
Reach out for help if you need it.
If you’re feeling particularly low after the holidays, remember that help is always available. If you’re having suicidal thoughts or need immediate mental health support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you’re still feeling low despite your efforts to combat post-holiday depression, the first step is to reach out for professional help. Together with a trained therapist, you can discuss the problems and behaviors you’re experiencing and establish the most effective treatment plan moving forward.
At the Therapy Group of NYC, we know that overcoming post-holiday depression requires determination, persistence, and the help of experienced professionals who can serve as a valuable resource for you in your mental health journey. One of the licensed therapists at the Therapy Group of NYC will help you navigate the post-holiday funk, find relief from stress and anxiety, and develop healthy coping mechanisms to function in everyday life.