How to Deal with Post-Holiday Depression

The holiday season is a prime example of mixed emotions in action. We hit enjoyable highs — all while juggling a fair amount of stress, guilt, shame, and grief. Even in the best of years, there’s a low is often lurking. This would be, of course, the seemingly inevitable letdown. A new year — with its blend of promise and pressure — settles upon us. And with it often comes what some call “the post-holiday blues.”

What Can Cause Post-Holiday Depression?

While each of us has his or her own variables, there are some common mood-depressing experiences, e.g.

  • Our physical bodies try to handle and recover from a season of too much indulgence and too little self-care
  • Jet lag taxes our sleep and restorative cycles (if you were traveling to celebrate the holiday season)
  • Our minds and spirits struggle to process a return to normalcy after a dose of intense stress and emotion
  • Settling back into work, school, or any other non-celebratory routines is disappointing
  • Our schedules (and perhaps your home) suddenly feel empty
  • A typical sadness occurs when a good time is over

In psychology, this is summed up as the “contrast effect.” Your brain and body are doing their best to manage the shift between two extremely different situations. In the post-holiday scenario, your mind perceives the present as being far sadder and boring that it is. It’s the stark contrast that defines our perception.

That perception, in turn, can trigger depression that must be dealt with. Things can get even more depressing in cold climates when a winter version of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) adds to the impact.

6 Ways to Deal with Post-Holiday Depression

1. Accept/Recognize That You Are Not Alone

Post-Holiday depression is common and almost inevitable. Don’t let your inner monologue tell you differently. Recognize this trend, accept it, and commit to the steps you need to nip it in the bud.

2. Recalibrate Your Diet

The holidays can be dangerous for your diet. Bad habits can be created and become tough to change. As soon as possible, re-set your eating style with healthier, more self-loving choices.

3. Perform Daily and Hourly Self-Care

Your daily activity, sleep patterns, and stress management are very crucial to recovery. Prioritize the type of small steps that will add up and contribute to you entering a new year with energy and optimism.

4. Identify Your Specific Post-Holiday Depression Triggers

It might be toxic family members, mourning a deceased friend or relative, nostalgia for the “good old days,” or perhaps a lack of fulfillment in your daily life. Keeping a journal is helpful in this process. Once you can name what you are feeling, you can better deal with what you are feeling.

5. Practice Gratitude

Take time each day to be grateful for the positive moments you experienced during the holidays. Rather than lament the return to normalcy, you can instead give thanks for your blessings.

6. Set Goals and Make Plans

The new year is often a time of goal-setting. Post-holiday depression makes it all the more urgent to reflect and plan. If this feels impossible, ask for help (see below).

Therapy is the Perfect Post-Holiday Gift to Yourself

As mentioned above, in step #1, the post-holiday blues are very, very common. Consequently, there are many psychotherapeutic approaches to this trend. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed as a new year commences. In fact, it’s the ideal time to reach out for help.

Working with a counselor on a weekly basis will enable you to identify the events and patterns that led to your current situation. From there — in classic New Year’s resolution style — you can work together to chart a new course for your life.

Click here to read more on Depression Treatment.