The past few weeks have been a swirl of activity and feasting and seeing family and friends you haven’t connected with in ages. New connections have been formed, unique memories have been created, and you are awash in the glow of enjoyment and contentment. But, the holiday season is now over and you must resume the tediousness of your regular life. Now, instead of the happiness and warmth that you’ve been holding in for some time, you feel slightly depressed, lackadaisical, and aimless. You have been struck by the post-holiday blues.
These feelings affect many people and usually last for a very short time. So you should bounce back to your usual self before you even realize it. But what happens if you want to avoid these feelings entirely? What happens if these feelings get worse over time and start affecting your daily life and mental health?
Here is everything you need to know about the post-holiday blues and how you can mitigate their effect on your life.
What Are Post-Holiday Blues?
After the rush of the holiday season is over, many people are overcome by the emptiness and drudgery of returning to their regular lives. This makes many of these people feel sadness, loneliness, fatigue, disappointment, sluggishness, mental distress, or even dread of the upcoming winter months. These short-term feelings are referred to as “post-holiday blues”.
Unfortunately, some people feel like turning to drugs or alcohol will pep them up and help them overcome the negative feelings that they are feeling when in reality the inverse is true. Adding drugs or alcohol to emotional or mental health disorders can make the symptoms much worse and much harder to treat, as well as adding the inconvenience of a substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD) into the mix.
How Do The Post-Holiday Blues Compare With Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
The post-holiday blues and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are both conditions that cause feelings of sadness during the winter months, but they are separated by a few key differences.
- The post-holiday blues are temporary and mild, while SAD is persistent and severe.
- The post-holiday blues are triggered by stress, loneliness, or disappointment related to the holiday season, while SAD is caused by changes in hormones and chemicals in the brain due to reduced sunlight exposure.
- The post-holiday blues normally disappear after the holidays are over, while SAD lasts until the spring or summer seasons.
- The post-holiday blues can be treated by coping strategies such as self-care, social support, and positive activities, while SAD may require professional help such as medication, psychotherapy, or light therapy.
How Do Trauma And Stress Play A Role In Experiencing Post-Holiday Blues?
Trauma and stress can affect whether or not someone experiences post-holiday blues by triggering or worsening symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health conditions. PTSD is a disorder that develops after being exposed to a traumatic event, such as violence, abuse, accidents, or disasters. A few symptoms of PTSD include intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, mood changes, anxiety, guilt, and avoidance.
The holiday season can be a stressful time for many people, particularly those who have experienced trauma in the past or are currently dealing with ongoing trauma or stress. Some of the factors that can cause stress during the holidays are financial worries, social pressure, family conflict, loneliness, grief, or disruption of routine. These factors can trigger or worsen PTSD symptoms, as well as increase the risk of developing other mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety.
Why Is It Common To Undergo Sadness And Disappointment After The Holidays Have Passed?
The end of the festive season heralds a return to reality that causes many people to experience sadness and disappointment. Some of the possible reasons for these changes are:
- Some people miss the pleasure, fellowship, and meaning they felt during the holidays.
- People have to resume their normal life routines, responsibilities, and environment, which may seem tedious compared to the excitement of the holidays.
- Oftentimes, people feel guilt, regret, or disappointment with how they spent their time or money, or how they interacted with others during the holiday season.
- Some people are subject to seasonal depression, which is connected to changes in hormones and chemicals in the brain that influence mood and sleep.
Sadness and dissatisfaction after the holidays are normal and temporary, but if these feelings persist or worsen, they may indicate a more serious mental health concern, such as anxiety or depression. If you notice these symptoms persisting in you or someone else, seek professional medical help soon.
Why Do Some Individuals Experience Emotional Withdrawal After The Holiday Season Has Passed?
The holiday season doesn’t mean fun and relaxation for everyone. High levels of stress, social pressure, and expectations cause some people to experience emotional withdrawal after the holiday season has passed. Various factors that can cause stress during the holidays are:
- Financial concerns, such as overspending on festivities or not having enough money to buy gifts or travel.
- Overwhelming pressure to find the right gifts or feeling obligated to give or receive them.
- Missing family or loved ones who are far away or have left this world.
- Coping with family conflict or drama, or feeling excluded or isolated from one’s culture, religion, or traditions.
- Disruptions to your normal routine, sleep, diet, or exercise schedule.
- Experiencing seasonal depression, which negatively affects moods and sleeping patterns.
The end of the holiday season brings a sense of relief to some, but others harbor feelings of guilt, displeasure, and discontent about how their time and money were utilized. These people may feel empty, sad, or hopeless, and may become withdrawn from their social or professional activities.
Emotional withdrawal after the holiday season is normal and affects many people. This does not mean that you are weak or flawed in any way. If you or someone you are close to experiences emotional withdrawal after the recent festivities, you are not alone, and you deserve to feel better. Below are a few tips that may help you cope:
- Acknowledge your feelings and accept them as reasonable and normal. Do not judge yourself or compare yourself to other people.
- Reach out to a support network, such as family, friends, colleagues, or community groups. Be open with your thoughts and feelings, and ask for help if you need it.
- Set realistic goals and ambitions for yourself and expectations for others that are grounded in reality. Do not pressure yourself to overachieve or become a people pleaser. Learn to say no to things you have no interest in or do not care about.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat well, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and avoid alcohol or drugs.
- Engage in activities that bring you delight, purpose, or relaxation. This could be a hobby, a passion, volunteer work, a spiritual practice, or anything else that makes your dopamine levels soar.
- Seek positive experiences and opportunities. Broaden your horizons by trying something new, learning a skill, exploring a place, or meeting new people. Be open to change and growth.
Keep in mind that post-holiday emotional withdrawal is temporary and treatable. You can overcome it and enjoy your life once more.
When Are Post-Holiday Blues Considered Serious?
The post-holiday blues feelings of sadness, loneliness, or disappointment that some people experience after the holiday season usually last a short while, but can sometimes last much longer and be indicative of a major underlying mental health issue such as depression or anxiety.
A few symptoms of depression or anxiety include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood
- Decreased pleasure and interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Insomnia or narcolepsy
- Shifts in appetite or weight
- Feeling restless, irritable, or needlessly guilty
- Trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Thoughts focused on suicide, death, self-harm, or suicide attempts
If you or someone you are acquainted with are experiencing any of these symptoms, or if you are concerned about your mental health, seek professional help. There are tried-and-proven treatments available for depression and anxiety, such as medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Westwind Recovery® Provides Tips For Managing Post-Holiday Blues.
You are not alone. The post-holiday blues can range from melancholy and emptiness to a complete lack of motivation and slight depression. Feeling sad or low from time to time, particularly after the hustle and bustle of the festive season has affected just about everyone to some degree.
People who have to deal with depression, loneliness, and PTSD often have an even harder time moving through the holiday season, and the bleakness once the holidays are over can make their symptoms and situations even worse. Seek out professional help from a therapist if you are unable to shake these feelings.
Westwind Recovery® is the right place for you to seek help for your mental health disorders or any other substance or alcohol-related disorders. Our competent staff is here to help you navigate after the holiday season and recover from any addictions or issues you may be struggling with.
Contact us today to speak with our admissions team or to ask any questions you may have about our facility or our provided services. With our guidance, you can reclaim control over your life and live worry-free.
Dr. Deena is the Chief Clinical Officer of Westwind Recovery®, an award-winning outpatient treatment center in Los Angeles where she oversees the clinical and administrative program and treatment methods. Dr. Deena is a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker since 1993. LCSW #20628. Originally from the East Coast, Dr. Deena has worked running treatment centers, worked as a therapist in psychiatric hospitals as well as school settings and currently has a thriving private practice in the LA area. Dr. Deena has appeared regularly on the Dr. Phil Show as an expert since 2003. She has also been featured on many other TV shows, podcasts and has contributed to written publications as well as podcasts.