Post Holiday Blues Syndrome
Coping With Post-Holiday Depression
The holidays are traditionally a time of fun and celebration. But what happens when the season ends? Many people simply savor their memories and make the transition back to daily life. However, others experience feelings of sadness or depression when the holiday season comes to a close. If this happens to you, you may be affected by something called the post-holiday blues.
The post-holiday blues are typically a minor, short-term mental health issue. But in some cases, they can have a significant impact on your ability to function. You may be able to cope with minor feelings of sadness on your own. However, for more serious symptoms, you may need to seek treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Effective remedies are available, and the right recovery plan will help you regain your sense of wellness.
Are the Post-Holiday Blues Real
It’s natural to feel a bit sad when the holiday season reaches its end. After all, the season is often filled with festive gatherings, family closeness, and a sense of warmth and comfort. When all of that stimulation subsides, returning to everyday life may seem like a letdown.
When many people use the term post-holiday blues, they are referring to this kind of minor sadness. As a rule, it poses no threat to your mental well-being. It also does not disrupt your ability to function. If your experiences fall into this category, you have nothing to worry about. By taking a few steps, you can ease your blues and improve your emotional state.
However, your feelings may also take a more serious form and lead to significant problems. In some cases, they may even indicate the presence of a diagnosable condition. This condition is not officially known as post-holiday blues syndrome. Instead, experts refer to it as an adjustment disorder with a depressed mood. The same condition is also known as situational depression.
Situational depression is not the same as major depression, the nation’s most common mental health issue. Major depression is a severe illness that often lasts a lifetime. It is also commonly the result of a number of factors, not just a single factor or cause. In contrast, situational depression is typically a short-term problem. In addition, it occurs as the result of a specific event or inciting incident.
The symptoms of situational depression largely mirror those of major depression. In addition to feelings of persistent sadness, they may include:
- A rapidly changing mood
- A sense of worthlessness or hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt
- A decline in your typical energy levels
- Difficulty thinking clearly or making decisions
- Anxiousness, worry or restlessness
- Physical pain that does not have an obvious cause
Severely affected people may also think about suicide or make an actual suicide attempt.
What Causes the Post-Holiday Blues
If you simply feel a little down after the holidays, your emotional state may have a number of causes. Common examples of these causes include:
- A sense of loss when relatives or loved ones go home
- A more general absence of social contact
- Declining levels of stimulation and excitement
- Dread of returning to your normal routine
These factors can not only contribute to a depressed mood. They can also create their own form of stress. Whether or not you realize it, you may have felt highly stressed out during the holidays. In this context, post-holiday blues syndrome may act as a kind of delayed stress reaction.
Situational depression is also stress-related. Any highly stressful event or situation can trigger its effects. It does not matter if you view that event or situation as a good thing or a bad thing. Instead, what matters is the impact it has on your ability to handle stress.
What About Diet and a Post-Christmas Sugar Crash
Can your diet have an influence on how you feel during and after the holidays? Potentially, yes. Without a doubt, the foods you eat can have some impact on your mood. However, no firm evidence exists to support the link between food and serious depression.
If you binge on sugar during the holidays, one issue you may experience is hypoglycemia. You may also know this condition as a sugar crash. Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar levels fall well below normal. You rely on a certain level of sugar in your bloodstream to provide energy. If not enough sugar is present, you may experience several of the same symptoms associated with depression. In addition to fatigue, these symptoms include:
- An irritable state of mind
- A confused state of mind
Excessive drinking during the holidays can also lead to hypoglycemia. However, the condition is not very common in people who do not have diabetes.
Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you feel depressed in the fall or winter, your symptoms might not necessarily be related to the holidays. Instead, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. The same condition is also referred to as a seasonal depression.
SAD is a subtype of major depression. Most of the time, it occurs during the part of the year when days grow shorter and nights grow longer. However, some people experience it in spring or early summer when days grow longer and nights grow shorter. People with SAD have depression symptoms severe enough to qualify as major depression. To be diagnosed, you must also be affected by seasonal symptoms for two years in a row or longer.
SAD appears most often in people who live in northerly latitudes. You also have higher risks for the condition if you experience major depression at other times of the year. In addition, people with bipolar disorder have the same elevated risks.
Stress and Relief Around the Holidays
Stress and depression can put a damper on anyone’s holidays. Very few times of the year can be as stressful as the time leading up to the holiday season. And wherever high stress is present, feelings of depression may soon follow.
Fortunately, you can take steps to ease your stress and reduce your depression risks. The list of widely recommended actions includes:
- Admitting your feelings to yourself
- Having a realistic idea of how much you can take on during the holidays
- Planning your holiday activities well in advance
- Maintaining your supportive social connections
- Resting when needed
- Sticking to a generally healthy lifestyle
Experts also universally recommend seeking professional help if your stress load simply becomes too much for you.
Tips for Beating the Post-Holiday Blues
How can you overcome post-holiday blues syndrome? If you do not have diagnosable situational depression, certain lifestyle choices may help. That includes such things as:
- Eating well
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Exercising regularly, even if only in small amounts at a time
- Putting strict limits on the amount of alcohol you consume
If you think you have situational depression, seek professional help as soon as possible. Your doctor can help determine if you are actually affected. If you are, treatment may take one of several forms. Many people receive antidepressants or other medications. In addition, you may benefit from some kind of psychotherapy. A common option here is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. You may also receive a combination of medication and CBT for your situational depression symptoms.
Going Gently Into New Year’s Resolutions
For some people, there may be another factor in developing post-holiday blues syndrome. That factor is the urge to make New Year’s resolutions for the coming year. In some cases, these kinds of resolutions can be helpful. This occurs when they lead to important changes that improve your life or make you feel better. However, far too often, New Year’s resolutions do more harm than good.
When this happens, the common culprit is creating resolutions that are too lofty or difficult to achieve. It can be good to challenge yourself to meet certain goals. But the situation changes when those goals are not realistically within reach. In these kinds of circumstances, your resolutions may do no more than burden you with extra stress.
How can you avoid piling on the stress? By creating resolutions that are realistic and achievable given your current situation. It also helps to shoot for goals that you can build up to gradually over time, instead of all at once. By taking this gentle approach, you can keep the stress levels low and the achievement levels high.
Learn More About Post-Holiday Blues Syndrome at Emerald Isle
Feeling down after the holidays? Talk to the mental health specialists at Emerald Isle Health & Recovery. We will help you understand the difference between temporary, harmless sadness and a more serious condition. If you think you may be affected by such a condition, we can provide you with a mental health assessment. We can also provide you with a more in-depth psychological evaluation.
In addition, Emerald Isle is a premier provider of mental health treatment. Our customized, targeted approach supports an effective recovery from situational depression and SAD. We can also help you overcome major depression and a broad range of other conditions. For more information on our available services, just call us today.
- University of Maryland Medical System: Are You Experiencing Situational Depression?
- Mayo Clinic: Adjustment Disorders – Symptoms & Causes
- Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School: Food and Mood- Is There a Connection?
- Mayo Clinic: Hypoglycemia – Symptoms & Causes
- National Institute of Mental Health: Seasonal Affective Disorder
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