3...2...1... New York City’s iconic New Year ball in Times Square drops, and so does your heart—In just a matter of seconds, it is now no longer the most wonderful time of the year.
The sinking feeling of sadness washes over you again as you slowly and sullenly take down the Christmas tree that lit up your life and tear down the heart-warming holiday decorations, packing away the precious Christmas mementos and family traditions in a dusty box until next year.
If you are someone who finds yourself feeling blue after the holiday season has come to an end, you are not dramatic, and more importantly, you are not alone.
As a matter of fact, the triggering of gloomy feelings at the end of the year is so common that the experience has even garnered various official names—post-holiday blues, post-vacation syndrome, post-holiday depression, post-vacation stress, etc.
Read on to learn more about the widespread phenomenon of post-holiday depression, as well as helpful hacks on how you can get a grip on the gloom and beat the blues.
What are Post-Holiday Blues?
Post-holiday blues, also known as post-vacation or post-occasion blues, refer to the feelings of sadness, letdown, or a general sense of low mood that some people experience after the conclusion of a holiday, vacation, or festive season.
Why Do We Experience Post-Holiday Depression?
These distressing and confusing emotions can arise for various reasons:
A Drop in Adrenaline
During holidays or vacations, individuals often engage in activities that bring excitement, novelty, and a break from routine.
These experiences can lead to an increase in adrenaline and other stress hormones, creating a heightened state of arousal.
Upon returning to the regular routine, especially if it involves mundane or less stimulating activities, there may be a noticeable decrease in adrenaline levels.
This sudden drop in arousal can contribute to feelings of lethargy, boredom, and a general sense of low mood.
The drastic contrast between the heightened state during the holiday period and the return to a more routine and less stimulating environment can play a role in the post-holiday blues.
Transition from Relaxation to Routine
Coming back from a period of relaxation and leisure to the usual routine of work or daily responsibilities can be a challenging and stressful shift.
The abrupt change of scenery from a carefree environment to a more structured one can lead to a sense of sadness or disappointment.
High Expectations Vs. Reality
Holidays often come with high expectations, whether it's about spending quality time with loved ones, creating special memories, giving and receiving the perfect gifts, or simply having a break from the usual routine.
If the reality doesn't match these expectations or feels anticlimactic, you can experience feelings of disappointment.
Seeing others' holiday experiences on social media or hearing stories about seemingly perfect vacations from friends and colleagues can contribute to a sense of inadequacy or envy, making you feel as if your own holiday wasn't as enjoyable by comparison.
Lack of Energy
While branded as the most wonderful time of the year, holidays can be physically and emotionally draining.
If you haven’t had enough time to recharge, returning to regular activities can be stressful, straining, and exhausting.
Seasonal changes, especially transitioning from a warm holiday destination to a colder or gloomier climate, can affect mood and contribute to feelings of sadness.
For some, these weather changes can trigger a more serious condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression directly spawning from seasonal shifts.
This means that people who suffer from SAD experience depression beginning and ending at about the same time every year.
For more information on SAD, click here.
Positive Pieces of Advice for Dealing with Post-Vacation Depression
1. Don’t feel forced to make abrupt changes immediately after the end of the holiday season.
Let’s face it. Humans struggle with change. We prefer to stay in our comfort zones, clinging to a sense of familiarity, security, and stability in our lives.
This is one major reason why the sudden shift in environment, routine, and overall mood after the holiday season can feel so life-altering and heart-breaking—especially considering the expectations of happiness that we associate with the holiday season.
Rather than diving into the new year head-first, it can be helpful to your mental health to ease into the new year with adequate adjustment time.
For example, don't feel pressured to take down all of your Christmas decor as soon as 1 January hits.
Instead of stripping away every last remnant of the passing season like the Grinch who stole Christmas, you can take your decorations down slowly over the next month or two—It’s not a crime to leave your Christmas tree up in January or snuggle up in front of the TV to watch a few Christmas classics you might have missed this year.
By making minor modifications gradually over time, easing into a new year won’t feel so drastic or jarring, meaning that the intensity of your emotional distress in reaction to these changes will be significantly reduced.
2. Don’t put too much pressure or expectations on yourself starting off the new year.
With the onset of a new year, we are oftentimes pressured to instantly implement dramatic changes to not only our lives but ourselves in the name of “new year, new me.”
We are expected to charge into the new year energised, motivated, and ready to overcome any obstacle that may stand in the way of our goals, dreams, and aspirations.
However, this pressure to transform seemingly overnight can easily eat you up, causing the opposite, unintended effect of feeling overwhelmed, defeated, and unmotivated.
Rather than bullying yourself into a new version of yourself, give yourself grace and focus on simply taking care of yourself during this difficult adjustment period.
Make sure that you are getting enough rest, nourishing your body, keeping up with personal hygiene, getting out of the house, and taking care of your mental health.
Above all else, remember to treat yourself with kindness.
3. Plan something fun to look forward to in the future.
The fun festivities that come with the holidays may be over, but that doesn’t mean that you are doomed to 11 months of torturous, monotonous boredom—even if it may feel like it right now.
Planning a fun activity that you enjoy is an effective way to lift your seasonal sulking spirit, as it gives you something exciting to look forward to, even when you may feel reluctant to start a new year.
Although it would be lovely, you don’t have to plan a luxurious beach getaway in order to add a little excitement to your life.
Even planning small, fun outings such as going to the cinema with your friends, eating dinner at a restaurant, or taking a relaxing stroll around the park can give your morale the boost it needs around this time of year and get you excited for the future, rather than mourning over the ghost of Christmas past.
4. Surround yourself with friends and loved ones to lean on.
When you’re going through hard times, it helps to be surrounded by people who love you, support you, and understand what you’re going through.
Do not feel guilty for leaning on others or needing extra support when you need it most.
While it may feel easier to lock yourself away in a dark room and hide from the world until the weight of your depression dissipates, isolating yourself during such a difficult time only enables you to drown in your own sorrow.
It’s okay to need some time alone, but don’t shut yourself off from others who could help provide warmth and comfort to you during this difficult time.
We are stronger together.
5. Talk to a therapist.
Post-holiday blues can be much more severe for some, possibly even pointing to other more serious mental health conditions.
Do not put your mental health on the back burner. You do not deserve to drown in your darkness.
Depression is heavy, and it’s okay to need support during this difficult time.
You don’t have to suffer in silence or go through this alone.
There are always trained professionals available who are there to help you.