Managing the Post-Holiday Blues

Did you get swept up in the holiday spirit?

The last few months of the year are full of activity – from decorating to shopping to attending holiday parties. It can seem like every day is filled with something new to do, see, and taste. But after weeks of this frantic, exciting pace everything just grinds to a halt. The used wrapping paper is thrown away. Adults reach for the antacid (and vow to lose weight) after so much rich food. Children are busy playing with their new toys.

But just like all of the trappings that go when the holiday goes away, so does the holiday mood.

If you’re feeling a post-holiday dip, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that as much as 25 percent of Americans suffer anywhere from a low grade to a major episode of depression right after the holidays. There are a lot of risk factors that go into seasonal depression. While there isn’t any data to suggest that depression is more common during the holidays than any other time, there are lots of reasons why it is tough for many people.

High (and unrealistic) expectations – Whether you had holiday celebrations as a child that would make Norman Rockwell smile or you just get sucked in by the “White Christmas” feeling all around you, there are high expectations for the holidays to be just right. The pressure to get things “correct” can sometimes be too much to bear, and chances are the holidays aren’t going to be able to live up to the expectations in your mind or on television.

Attempting to fit too much in – There’s so much going on during the holiday season that it’s easy to get swept up in all of the activity. If you’re already subject to depression and anxiety, the feelings of needing to get everything done can be overwhelming. Fearing that you’re not doing enough or that you’re failing others can make it more difficult to enjoy the holidays.

Lack of self-care – The weeks leading up to the holiday season are full of heavy food, late nights and maybe a little too much wine or beer. Between increased errands and chores, parties to attend and end-of-the-year work deadlines, you may let self-care fall by the wayside. Eating poorly, not getting enough sleep and other pressures exacerbate stress and can cause a post-holiday crash.

Clearly there are plenty of reasons to feel low after the holidays – so what should you do about it? If you’re already prone to depression and are seeing a therapist or counselor, speak with him or her about a post-holiday strategy. Make sure to continue your medications and regular appointments throughout the holiday season so you can stay ahead of the post-holiday crash.

If you’re just suffering from seasonal doldrums, these self-care steps can help:

Start with a deep breath.

Taking a moment to take a deep breath just a few minutes a day can have a positive impact on your health. Most people don’t breathe deeply enough throughout the day, and this tendency can be even worse during the holiday season. Pausing for a breath and a time out before, during, and after the holiday season accomplishes a few specific things. You take time to concentrate on what went right over the holidays, you can count your blessings and grow appreciation, and you also get much needed oxygen to your overtaxed brain.

Reset your diet and start moving.

The entire fall season is full of too much fat, salt, sugar and, for some, alcohol. Your post-holiday blues may have to do with good old fashioned chemical withdrawal. Stop stuffing yourself because it’s the holidays. Reset your portion sizes, ban excess sweets from the house and bundle up to get some exercise outdoors. Not only does eating better and exercising help you detox from the effects of the holiday season, but the endorphin’s from exercising will make you feel better emotionally too.

Distract yourself with something new.

You don’t have the endless to do lists of the holiday season to keep you busy, so you need to make your own fun. Plan something that you’ve always wanted to do that you can look forward to. Take a short day trip to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Create a low-key celebration with your friends for the end of January. Plan some self-care indulgences, like a massage. Giving yourself something new to look forward to can help give you a lift in mood.

What about you? What do you do to stay positive after the holidays?

Categories: Health & Wellness