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Navigating the Post-Holiday Blues

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The holiday season can be a time filled with wonder and joy as we visit with loved ones and celebrate the past year. However, the stress of preparing meals, gathering gifts, making plans and generally being thrown off our routine can make the return to normal life jarring. The holidays can also be a time of grief and remorse for those who are remembering loved ones who have passed away.

The weeks after the holidays can be a shock to the system as we try to return to old routines or start new ones. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people report being affected by holiday depression or post-holiday blues. This can be from a myriad of issues, from financial worries to emotional and physical stress caused by the season. For others, it may be caused by leaving the excitement of the holiday season to work and other responsibilities.

What Are the Post-Holiday Blues?

Sometimes called “post-vacation syndrome,” these kinds of feelings can occur after a wedding, a funeral or any nonroutine period with intensely emotional or stressful situations. The post-holiday blues share many of the same characteristics as an anxiety or mood disorder: insomnia, low energy, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and anxiousness. However, unlike clinical depression, the symptoms are only for a short period rather than an extended amount of time.

Why Do We Feel Depressed After the Holidays?

Even if you had a wonderful time and are eager to return to your daily routine, you still might feel the post-holiday blues. This can be emotionally exhausting. While we enjoy spending time with loved ones, it can still take a lot of energy that we need time to recover from.

What Causes Post-Holiday Blues?

While the exact cause is debated, most experts agree that the main culprit is likely “adrenaline comedown.” During the holidays, your brain increases the amount of adrenaline to deal with all the different events, feelings and emotions. However, once they’re over, the increase stops and the brain begins to experience withdrawal from the hormones it’s been accustomed to.

However, that’s not the only culprit. Another common issue is the contrast effect, an unconscious effect that occurs when two things are judged in comparison to one another instead of being assessed individually. The holiday season can be drastically different from the other months of the year, and compared to the average workdays, may feel more special and important.

How To Get Past Post-Holiday Blues

Everyone’s needs are different. However, there are simple things you can do to help clear your mind as you readjust back to day-to-day life.

  • Take care of your body: Make sure you eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. While these feel simple, they add up and can improve your mindset and ability to cope.

  • Mental health time: Set aside time to do things you enjoy and give yourself something fun to look forward to as you ease into your routine.

  • Relax and don’t force yourself: Post-holiday blues may feel like they will go on forever. But rest assured that they’ll fade. Take time to recover and focus on what you think will help you.

If you’re having more trouble combating holiday blues, check out our full list of coping strategies here. And if your symptoms worsen and last longer than a few weeks, reach out to a behavioral health expert. We’re here to help you feel whole all year long.

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