Avoid the Post-Holiday Blues

When the holidays are over, how do you keep the blues away and go back to everyday life? 

Here are  some ideas. 

The holidays can be emotionally charged- whether they are exciting, stressful, or full of anxious anticipation.  It can take weeks, or even months, to prepare for the holiday season, and it lasts only a short time and disappears quickly.  After all the holiday fuss, January can feel anticlimactic.  It may take time to transition to the usual mundane schedule- back to the office or to school.  It is not uncommon for women to feel sad and lethargic after the holiday celebrations.

Up to 25% percent of us experience post-holiday depression, or some form of depression that can creep up, days after the holidays are over.  This is often temporary, but needs to be addressed so that it does not have a long-lasting effect on your life.

What Triggers Post Holiday Blues?

Post-holiday blues can be triggered by a number of things.  Below are some of the most common reasons people feel sad after the holidays:

  • Women try to do too much during the holidays:  cook, shop, organize parties; and spread themselves too thin.  The added pressure may lead to exhaustion, fatigue, frustration, and eventually, depression.  While you may feel relieved that the cooking, cleaning, and entertaining is over, you may not be ready to go back to work right away- you may feel like you could use a rest.
  • You may  feel sad over lingering family issues.  After the holidays, when you have time to look back and evaluate what happened during family gatherings, you may realize that some of it upset you.  You may play back conversations you had with your parents and/or siblings and discover hidden meanings in them.  This may leave you feeling hurt or angry.
  • Gaining weight over the holidays can be disappointing, especially if you have dedicated a lot of effort to watching your diet or trying to lose weight.  While it is important for women to look good, your self-esteem can plummet with every extra pound gained, leaving you feeling angry and self-critical.  Feelings of shame and guilt about your holiday weight-gain can quickly become demoralizing, undermining your motivation to eat wisely and stay active.
  • If holidays are the highlight of your year, you may be more prone to experiencing post-holiday blues and feeling let down.  You may miss all the activity, family, and friends, especially if some of them live far away from you.

 

 

So, what can you do to be happier after the holidays? Here are some suggestions that may help you cope with the post holiday blues:

1.    Expect to be let down

The holidays can be both joyful and stressful all at once.  After all the excitement, returning to the usual routine, and a workplace that is probably quieter than normal, can dampen your spirits due to the absence of exciting things to do and look forward to.  On the other hand, if your holidays were not as enjoyable as you had hoped, you can be left feeling let-down because it was not as pleasant as you had expected, and this can sour your mood.  Expecting to feel a little sad is a way to tell yourself that it is a normal feeling that will pass as soon as your routine re-establishes itself.

2.    Allow yourself a transition period

Getting back to “normal” after the holidays may take time.  It will probably take more than a few days to adjust to being back at work and begin feeling like your “normal and productive” self.  Having high expectations of yourself may only add stress and make you feel depressed.  There is no magic wand or a button you can press in January that will allow you to “start fresh.”  If you are patient and accept your sadness, you are more likely to start feeling like yourself sooner.

3.    Do not ignore your feelings of sadness

All of us, even the happiest people, feel blue sometimes.  Feeling blue can actually be good for you.  Research shows that mild to moderate doses of negative experiences are beneficial for growth and development.  In fact, moderate stress during fetal development makes children fare better and be more resilient to stressors later on in life.

4.     Find meaning

Happiness is tied to how you interpret events, not the events per se.  It is true that fortunate events can trigger intense happiness, but this state of intense happiness is short-lived.  Studies examining lottery winners showed that, after experiencing intense happiness, they did not end up feeling significantly happier in the long run, when compared to a group of people that did not win.

Having a purpose and meaning in life seems to contribute to lasting happiness.  Involvement with family or work that one finds meaningful and purposeful is one of the most significant contributing factors of happiness.  Studies also show that people that are involved in their communities and churches tend to experience more positive emotions and be more satisfied with their lives.  Remember, it is not the situation itself, but your appraisal of it, which will affect whether you feel happiness or sadness.  Even difficult events, such as family conflict over the holidays, or having to face weight gain, can be a source of positive emotions.

5.    Go outside and get active

During the holidays, it is very easy to ignore your body and get away from your regular exercise routine.  Increased physical activity is not only one of the best antidepressants and creator of good feelings, but it also helps prevent extra weight gain.

If your post-holiday blues do not improve on their own, and you continue to feel sad, even after your best efforts to be feel happy, get help.  Do not try to “tough it out” alone- getting help from an experienced counselor can make a significant difference.

Call me for a FREE ten-minute consultation at (281)267-1742.

Dr.Irena Milentijevic is a licensed psychologist who specializes in helping mothers and those hoping to be mothers overcome stress, loss, and depression.  Her offices are located in Houston and the Woodlands, Texas.  Visit her website at: www.DrIrena.com to get her free report, “Moms and Mom Wannabes: 10 Ways to Overcome Depression and Reclaim Your Sanity”.

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