Do you find yourself getting worked up into a frenzy every Christmas, endlessly decorating and buying gifts, only to feel a sense of depression or disappointment on December 26th? When you get excited about a big event, it’s natural to feel a little disappointed when you have to return to the challenges and disappointments of daily existence. The good news is that a post-holiday drop in your mood isn’t unusual, and does not mean there is anything wrong with you.
If your drop lasts more than a few days, leaves you feeling suicidal, or greatly interferes with your ability to work or care for yourself, it could be depression, not the post-holiday blues. Otherwise, try the following tips to get back on track.
Schedule Something Fun
Part of the reason the post-holiday season is so disappointing is that you’ve spent a month or more looking froward to a major event. But excitement isn’t just for the holidays; happy people are able to find things to be excited about all year. Schedule something you know you’ll love doing—a brief vacation, a shopping trip, a spa visit with a beloved friend—for shortly after the holiday, so you know you have something to look forward to.
Manage How You Approach the Holidays
Some people experience a post-holiday drop because of the choices they make in the prelude to the holidays. From spending too much money to fighting with loved ones, stress can feel unbearable when there’s not a holiday around to cushion it. Pay attention to the way you structure and manage your holidays, and consider whether there is anything you can or should change about the way you do holidays next year.
Spend Time With Loved Ones
The holidays help us feel close to those we love the most, but when they return home at the end of the season, it’s easy to feel lonely. Depression and misery thrive in isolation, so schedule some time with the people you love the most—even if it’s just a quick Skype date.
Practice Good Self-Care
Self-care, as the name implies, is the art of caring for yourself. Many people neglect self-care during the holiday season, spending too much, eating too little, and not getting nearly enough sleep. Now’s the time to change that. Some steps toward self-care that can help you feel better now include:
- Drinking enough water; drink a glass right now if you’re feeling bad.
- Eating a healthy diet rich in protein and vegetables.
- Drinking small quantities of caffeine, which has been shown to improve cognition and mental health.
- Getting plenty of sleep; take a nap if you feel overwhelmed right now.
- Doing things that make you feel happy and peaceful, such as exercising or writing in a journal.
Know When to Seek Help
Sometimes depression—particularly seasonal depression—masquerades as the post-holiday blues. If you feel bad for more than a few days, that may be what’s going on. Some other warning signs of depression include:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Being unable to enjoy once-beloved activities
- Lack of motivation
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Unexplained muscle aches, stomach pain, or headaches
- Feeling helpless in the face of your psychological distress
- Difficulty feeling affectionate toward loved ones
- Feeling unable to do things that might help, such as eat a healthy meal