How To Get Over Post Holiday Depression

Are you having a difficult time feeling motivated and getting back into the swing of things after the holidays?

If so, you may be experiencing Post-Holiday Depression. 

In this article we will discuss:

  • What is Post Holiday Depression?
  • How to Get Over Post Holiday Depression
  • Strategy 1: Allow Yourself a Transition Period
  • Strategy 2: Make Time For Self-Care
  • Strategy 3: Take Care Of Your Body
  • Strategy 4: Schedule Time for Fun
  • Strategy 5: Look Forward
  • Strategy 6: Find Meaning
  • Strategy 7: Seek Therapy

Let’s get to it! 

What is Post Holiday Depression?

"Depression" written on paper surrounded by dark moody photos.

Post-holiday depression is the persistent feeling of sadness, lack of motivation, irritability, or even regret after returning home from a post holiday trip.

Post-holiday depression typically lasts around two weeks but it can affect some people for longer periods of time.

If you are experiencing the Post-Holiday Depression you may tend to show signs of irritability often with co-workers, friends, family and may even lead to conflict within relationships.

A general feeling of sadness, similar to the symptoms of depression. Lethargy and lack of motivation – it’s hard to get enthusiastic about anything. Difficulty sleeping – sleep patterns may be disrupted after holiday, leading to trouble getting into a deep sleep or waking up early in the morning. Anxiety attacks – symptoms such as sweaty palms and feelings of panic may manifest themselves after returning from an enjoyable holiday.

You may have an overall feeling of emptiness which leads to boredom and restlessness too, as well as a lack of energy for day-to-day tasks.

The great news is that there are plenty of things you can do to help yourself feel better once all the festivities are over. 

If you want to know more about depression in general, here is a short video that explains the topic. 

How to Get Over Post Holiday Depression

Strategy 1: Allow Yourself a Transition Period

Woman who suffers from post-holiday depression looking out of a moving train window.

Between seeing family, traveling, gift giving and receiving, the holidays are a time of high expectations. The holidays are also a time of high stress. Awkward dining room conversations, seeing those relatives you don’t know well (or even avoid), and family drama can all contribute to high amounts of stress.

During all the excitement, your brain is in a constant state of stimulation. Sometimes this stimulation comes in the form of your stress hormones that are released when your relatives bring up politics, religion, or other dicey subjects. 

Sometimes it’s stimulation that comes from excitement and ‘happy’ neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Everything during the holidays is more intense and then- all of a sudden you go back to normal, everyday life. 

This shift back to everyday life creates the perfect set of circumstances for the contrast effect

The contrast effect is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when the brain cannot adjust fast enough to circumstances that are vastly different. 

When your brain comes to expect all the stimulation of the holidays and then abruptly returns to everyday life, it looks like a hopeless, depressing place. 

All that is usually needed to get past post holiday depression is to allow yourself time to transition from one experience to the next. Giving yourself some grace and allowing yourself a transition period will help to reset your mind’s expectations of everyday life. Once normal life begins to feel more, well, normal, you will also begin to feel your post-holiday depression leaving as well.  

Strategy 2: Make Time For Self-Care

Self-care is essential to treating post-holiday depression.

If you’re like many people, you may idealize the holidays

Hallmark channel movies spring to mind before the holidays where families roast marshmallows around the fireplace and open gifts. They laugh, they smile and all feels right in the world. 

Toxic family drama can cause post-holiday depression, as the perfect image you had for the holidays was shattered.

When we anticipate the holiday to actually be like the idealized image and then we get a toxic family drama, it sets us up for disappointment and other painful emotions. 

Many people’s post-holiday depression stems from feeling let down after the holidays

If you are experiencing post-holiday depression, you may be experiencing emotional exhaustion and let down. Many people find themselves unexpectedly navigating toxic family dynamics during the holidays. Maybe you tried to set healthy boundaries and improve communication during the holidays but they just weren’t having it. 

It’s also possible that you put on a “mask” during high stress events. This mask makes it appear as though you are doing great. You’re happy, your life is great, and you’re thrilled to be there. 

Keeping this mask on over the holidays and bottling up how you really feel can be emotionally exhausting

When you take off your social mask after the holidays, you can begin to feel a dip in your emotional state. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that 64% of people who are already diagnosed with a mental illness of some form say that the holidays either make their condition “somewhat worse” or “a lot worse”.

If this feels like you, it’s important to allow yourself to feel your emotions. Trying to push the emotions down or attempting to just distract yourself from them will only make the situation worse. 

Pressure gage attached to an exterior wall.

Simply committing to doing one self-care activity a day can help you work through your emotions in a healthy way. Write in a journal, take long baths, or just give yourself time to relax. 

Take some time to process how you are feeling and why you are feeling that way. It may be useful to practice some mindfulness techniques to get back into touch with yourself

If you would like to use some of our prerecorded mindfulness exercises, click Here

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Strategy 3: Take Care Of Your Body

During the holidays, your brain and body are perpetually in a state of high stimulation for a number of reasons. This can leave your mind and body feeling like you have been in a state of chaos for a couple weeks. Here are just 4 reasons the holidays can get you used to overstimulation.

  • You may have changed your routine due to family coming into town or because of traveling.
  • Maybe you were eating less healthy or weren’t getting your normal amount of exercise. This can lead to increases or decreases in energy level. 
  • Maybe the mattress in your mother’s spare bedroom was too soft and you couldn’t sleep & had back pain.
  • Maybe you’re an introvert and you feel that you weren’t able to get 1 moment alone for two solid weeks. 

There are an unlimited number of reasons the holidays can create lots of stress, even if you had an amazing experience. 

When your normal routines are broken, it often leads to you not getting your needs met as well as you would normally. 

All of this activity over the holidays can lead to emotional & physical exhaustion

Activity over the holidays can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion, leading to post-holiday depression.

Your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) is designed to pump you with hormones like adrenaline to get you through threatening situations, crises, and other high stimulation events – like the holidays. 

These chemicals keep your mind and body functioning at peak performance even if you haven’t had enough sleep, food, etc. 

Once your mind begins to feel that life no longer requires the extra boost, it will stop providing these chemicals and that’s when many people begin to fall into the post holiday depression

Here are some ways to give yourself the care you need to get back on your feet. 

Make Time To Exercise: After the holidays, it’s important to make time to get physically active for at least 20 minutes a day. Physical exercise releases many of the same neurotransmitters as you experienced during the holidays (not to mention it’s healthy). This helps to pick up your mood.

Eat Balanced and Healthy: After the holidays, it’s more important than ever to eat healthy and balanced. Make sure you are getting a nutrient-dense diet. This will help give your body and mind what is needed to re-adjust back to normal life. 

Eating healthy can help alleviate the symptoms of post-holiday depression.

Make Time For Sleep: Be sure you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night after the holidays. When you are operating on less sleep than you need you are more prone to anxiety and depression. While your sleep patterns may be unusual during the holidays, you can get back on track once things return to normal.

These three suggestions may seem obvious and somewhat unhelpful, but studies have shown a dramatic correlation between people who are depressed and people who are not exercising, eating healthy, and sleeping enough. Just solving these three issues gives many people what they need to get past post-holiday depression. 

Strategy 4: Schedule Time for Fun

Make it a point to make some time for fun once you get back to life as usual. The contrast effect isn’t nearly as intense if you make sure to schedule some time with friends and other people you care about

When you are looking forward to events or getting out of the house, the shift back to daily life won’t be nearly as intense. 

Be aware that if you are feeling depressed, you may feel like withdrawing from other people. This is a typical symptom of people struggling with depression but the best thing you can do is to act against it. If you withdraw from others, you will sink even further into depression. 

Make plans even though you don’t feel like it and it will get you feeling back to normal in no time. 

Strategy 5: Look Forward

Looking forward to the future can help you move past your symptoms of depression.

After the holidays is the perfect time to look forward instead of looking backward. The new year is a great time to consider all your new options and opportunities. 

Comparing your present circumstances to the holidays may bring you down. 

Instead, compare where you are at now with where you will be going in the future. Take some time to set some big goals. Maybe you want to read 100 books in the next year or start taking jiu-jitsu. 

Whatever you are looking forward to, write it down and realize that the present moment is not lesser than the time you had during the holidays. The time you have now is the time you need to start moving toward the life you want to create

If you want more information about goal setting, check out this short video

Strategy 6: Find Meaning

True lasting happiness is created by understanding your own purpose and meaning in life

Post holiday blues make it hard to find meaning in life and can make you feel like there is no point in trying or achieving anything. 

A great way to find meaning in life is by helping others with their difficulties. Volunteering at a charity can make you feel more connected and it feels good! Donating money to the homeless shelter around the corner, taking your neighbor’s groceries up to their apartment, or even just saying hello to your neighbors can help create a sense of community and meaning in life.

Healthy relationships with friends and family, even work colleges can create a substantial amount of meaning and purpose. Studies show that people who are more active in local communities like churches or clubs are more satisfied with life than people who aren’t.

In addition to relationships, people also find a tremendous amount of meaning and purpose when striving toward a challenging vision that benefits themselves and others

Having dreams and hopes for the future can help those who suffer from post-holiday depression get out of their funk.

If you have also struggled with depression, you will love our article – The 5 Most Powerful Strategies To Beat Depression

Strategy 7: Seek Therapy

If after some time you feel like you are still struggling with post-holiday depression, it may be time to consider talking with a professional. 

Talking with a therapist is an excellent way to get a supportive, external perspective on your thoughts and feelings. 

Therapists are able to hear your specific concerns and create treatment plans that will help you to work through your post holiday depression in a fairly short period of time. 

That brings us to the end of this article on post-holiday depression.

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