Why do we feel so bad when we expect to feel so good?
Posted Sep 24, 2014
I have a theory. It's not research-based, but I've seen it again and again with my clients and in my own personal life:
When we push and push and push and then STOP, we often experience what I call "Post-Adrenaline Blues." It's usually a temporary condition, but while we're in it, we feel miserable. We’re depleted, dissatisfied, and prone to questioning everything about our lives.
The let-down after the big event
Post-Adrenaline Blues can strike after major positive events like a wedding or a graduation. They can strike after a long burst of effort for a major work deadline or after a challenging personal project, like preparing for a family move. The key trigger seems to be intense, sustained effort that ends abruptly.
Maybe it’s biological. In addictions research, rebound or withdrawal effects are common. When people get off a substance, they often feel much worse than they did before they took the substance. It’s possible that the abrupt withdrawal of stress hormones could be at the root of Post-Adrenaline Blues.
Or, maybe it’s psychological. Maybe it stems from the contrast between how we expected to feel when “the big event” was over and how we actually feel. Maybe it’s about just feeling at loose ends, not sure what to do with ourselves, because something that has been the overriding organizing focus of our lives is now past. We tell ourselves, “I just have to make it to Friday, and this will be over!” But the jubilation at being done is often quickly followed by a sense of letdown.
Recovering from Post-Adrenaline Blues
The good news is that Post-Adrenaline Blues tend to be temporary. If you think this might be what's going on with you, treat yourself gently--as if you were recovering from the flu. Eat well. Rest. Do some low-key exercise, such as going for a walk, stretching, or taking a yoga class. Reach out to the people in your life who care about you, especially if you’ve been neglecting those relationships lately. (You may need to thank them for putting up with you during your big push!) Try not to make any major decisions while you’re feeling not-quite-yourself.
In a few days or a week, you’ll probably find your spirits lifting and your energy returning.
Q: Have you experienced Post-Adrenaline Blues? What helped you recover?
Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, is an author and clinical psychologist in Princeton, NJ (lic. # 35SI00425400). She frequently speaks at schools and conferences about parenting and children’s social and emotional development. www.EileenKennedyMoore.com
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