The holiday season is eagerly anticipated by many for its festive cheer and unrelenting positivity. Even the torrents of snow and frigid temperatures don’t stop people from romanticizing the holidays and seeing all the seasonal pleasantries decorating the world around them, mesmerized by red and green light bulbs strung across the front porch and silver tinsel shimmering next to mistletoe.
With all the magic and colorful cheer, you would think the days following the conclusion of the seasonal festivities would be brimming with the residual positivity of the holiday glow. But instead of the typical happiness and tranquility associated with the post-holiday season, many folks experience the drag of negative emotions and low moods that weigh them down.
The holidays in general can be a tough time for people, and when you’re struggling with the holiday blues, the feelings of depression don’t magically vanish when the holidays come to an end. Feelings of doom and gloom may continue to persist throughout the dark winter, but there are plenty of healthy strategies you can utilize to cope with the post-holiday blues and get your life back on a more positive track.
Keep reading to learn more about the following:
- Why the post-holiday season is rampant with depression
- The research and possible causes of post-holiday blues
- Effective and healthy strategies for coping with the post-holiday blues
Understanding the Post-Holiday Blues
The post-holiday blues refers to a time period following the holiday season in which depression and stress is prominent even in the aftermath of the seasonal festivities. While the post-holiday blues share many similarities to anxiety and mood disorders, such as low energy and difficulty concentrating, they can be distinguished from clinical disorders due to the issues being short-term, not long-term. Post-vacation syndrome is another name that can be used to refer to the occurrence, which is the general feeling you’re stuck with at the end of a break from normal life.
The holiday blues in general can manifest from a number of different factors that influence the life of an individual, from the death of a loved one to social isolation. While the holiday blues can linger after the holidays come to a close, the post-holiday blues are another phenomenon that may manifest from a different sort of wintertime depression.
Even folks who generally look forward to the magic of the season can find themselves stuck in a rut of post-holiday blues. Others may use the holidays as a form of escapism, forgetting their mundane reality in favor of festive cheer and unwavering happiness whilst being surrounded by loving friends and family members, only to be subjected to the return of depressed thoughts once the celebrations conclude.
So, what’s the deal with the mystery of the post-holiday blues and what sets it apart from other times of year that are also filled with sad thoughts and gloomy moods? Let’s consider the bigger picture.
Why is Depression So Common After the Holiday Season Ends?
While feeling depressed is not limited to any specific time of year, the aftermath of the holiday season is ripe for the breeding of unstable moods and melancholic thought. Post-holiday depression is so much more pronounced than other yearly counterparts, likely due to the drastic shift in routine and behaviors that are present during the holiday season.
Many individuals structure their entire lives around work, making time for additional responsibilities and personal relationships in-between professional duties and familial demands. The holidays may be the only time of year where many folks get to bypass their typical obligations and deviate from regular routines, which makes the post-holiday season that much more rough.
Even if you didn’t have a very eventful holiday season, the collective atmosphere of the holidays can influence your brain and cause it to exaggerate the actual reality of things. Because of this, the days following the holidays can seem disproportionately more stressful and dismal than they actually are, resulting in rekindled flames of depression and a heavy drop in mood.
The Science Behind the Post-Holiday Blues
Though the research on the post-holiday blues is rather limited, many experts theorize that the main culprit behind the phenomenon is the adrenaline crash. With all the parties and family planning that goes on during the holiday season, you get swept up in the constant swarm of activities and social gatherings.
When all of those events come to a stop, you experience the sudden reduction of stimulation as a loss, explaining why symptoms of depression may set in more easily in the post-holiday season. This sensation of loss is not the same as depression, though it can feel extremely familiar and result in various shared symptoms.
Instead of genuine depression, the post-holiday blues rely on your brain’s memory network in order to fester. Our brains store memories in neural networks, which are connections of related events or relevant information. A specific emotion will open a particular neutral network that holds memories relating to past instances where you felt the same as you currently do. So while the atmosphere following the holiday season may seem profoundly glum and mopey, it is likely you are projecting some of that sadness into your life merely because the festivities have ended.
For those individuals who do deal with clinical depression, the post-holiday blues extend an unwelcome greeting back to reality. Many folks with depression find distraction in the lively holiday season, socializing with loved ones and busying themselves with a never-ending list of preparations to complete before the celebrating is over. Ignoring feelings of depression during this time is quite easy, but when the holiday clock slows back down to a normal pace, the post-holiday blues are ready to pounce.
Possible Causes of Post-Holiday Blues
While the actual science behind post-holiday depression points to the memory network of your brain and how it associates the dynamic shift in atmosphere in the time following the holiday season, there are plenty of contributing factors that can spur on negative emotions during and after the festivities. Some of these include:
- Time of year
- Lack of sleep
- Grief over death of a loved one
- Financial strain
- Isolation and loneliness
- Alcohol consumption
Implement Healthy Strategies for Coping with the Post-Holiday Blues
Don’t let your low mood bring you down after the holiday craze is over. Work on adopting healthy behaviors and coping strategies to help you get through the negative emotions and take back control of your life.
Engage in Self-Care
One of the best things you can do for your health during the post-holiday season is to participate in self-care. This can be done by prioritizing your daily needs and doing what makes your mind and body happy, which in turn gives you the energy to accomplish more throughout the day.
Our bodies may take a hit or two during the holidays on account of the mountains of baked cookies and time spent lounging, and sleep is rather difficult to get in the midst of all the holiday commotion. That being said, quality sleep, regular exercise, and a nutritional diet are all factors that contribute to an energetic, healthy lifestyle and things you will want to implement into your self-care routine once the holiday chaos has subsided.
It’s also important to engage in emotional self-care by taking moments to connect with the people you love most. If they nourish your soul, then spending time with them is good for your health. Additionally, setting boundaries is an effective way of taking care of yourself by putting your foot down and doing what is best for your health in the moment.
Get Out of the House
The skies may still be gray and the wind chill abysmal, but there’s no point denying that stepping outside for a breath of fresh air is never a bad idea. A short walk down a nature path or by the lakeside gives you time to escape the confining walls of your home, overflowing with post-holiday depression, and take in the present unrestricted.
Feel free to use this opportunity to meet up with someone in a social environment, like at a skate park or shopping outlet. Socializing is an important part of emotional health and interacting with a friend or loved one can offer some reassurance and comfort to those in low spirits. Even better, hit the gym with a friend and ward off the depressed thoughts with exercise.
Adopt a Routine
Following a set routine or schedule as you navigate the post-holiday world can help reestablish structure and normalcy in your life. Since the holidays disrupt the regularity of society around you, it’s easy to get swept into the typhoon and lose the consistency you once had. It’s only temporary though, as the conclusion of the holidays marks a return to normal behavior. Return to consistent routines and be one step closer to shaking off the post-holiday blues.
Consider the Benefits of Supplements
There’s no shame in getting a little help when it comes to living an overall healthier lifestyle. Dietary supplements can provide you with numerous essential vitamins and minerals, and are especially helpful when you aren’t getting enough nutrients from your diet.
Before you make any serious decisions on your own, be sure to talk with your doctor or another health care professional about the supplements you’re interested in. Be open about your medical history and list any medications you take, since supplements could interfere with their effectiveness and result in further harm to your health.
Try not to be too scared of the idea, though. There are many supplements that could be extremely beneficial to supporting you through the post-holiday blues and be great for your health in the long run.
5-HTP supplements could offer an effective method of reducing the impact of post-holiday blues by helping with mood regulation. Derived from the amino acid tryptophan, 5-HTP is a chemical that the body converts into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is associated with feeling happy. The levels of serotonin in your body can affect mood, anxiety, sleep, and pain; not having enough of the neurotransmitter present can contribute to negative emotions.
Supplementing with 5-HTP can solve issues of low serotonin with ease, among additional health benefits. The 5-HTP Plus supplements by Dr. Emil Nutrition are perfect for synthesizing serotonin and improving brain function overall.
While we hope you benefit from these strategies to help cope with the post-holiday blues, there is nothing wrong with reaching out to a medical professional if you can’t shake the low mood and feelings of depression. Advice can only go so far, and there’s always a risk of an underlying condition contributing to the negative emotions.
But that small point aside, the post-holiday blues will likely fade away as more time passes. You can speed up the progress by adopting healthy behaviors and coping mechanisms to deal with the depression. Above all, go easy on yourself as you get back up on your feet and reorient yourself to the post-holiday world.