- Post-holiday letdown is a real phenomenon.
- Seasonal affective disorder may be impacting your well-being.
- Returning to work may cause you feelings of dread.
- Consider what you enjoyed about the holidays and see if you can recreate it.
It's normal to feel a sense of disappointment and sadness when the holiday season is over. You may have worked at making the holidays special for yourself and others. You may have felt more of a sense of community during the season.
Figure Out What You Miss About the Holidays.
If you are experiencing a post-holiday letdown, it might be because the holidays helped you experience something you have been missing. During the holiday season, did you connect more with people? Were you eating what you wanted and not thinking about how it impacted your waistline? If you were socializing and having fun during the holidays, you might be going through a kind of social withdrawal. Find ways to recreate what you enjoyed about the holidays and what you miss about the season. Many times, your sad feelings don't come from the holidays being over but from what you experienced during the holidays.
Accept Your Feelings.
It is entirely normal to feel a sense of sadness when the holidays are over. You may feel deeply lonely now that your family and friends have left. You may feel a sense of relief that you now have your home to yourself. Then you feel guilty for feeling a sense of relief.
It's normal to have multiple feelings when the holidays are over. Each feeling is valid, and you have the right to experience it. Journaling about how you're feeling can help you process your experience. When you are feeling better, you can review your journals to remind yourself that feelings are temporary and you can feel better.
Know That Others Feel the Same Way.
A lot of people experience a post-holiday letdown. It's not something that is discussed very much, so you may not realize how it affects other people. We also tend to put on a "happy face" for others. You probably aren't going to run into a neighbor that shares with you that they are feeling sad that the holidays are over.
But maybe we should talk about it with others. Being transparent about how we think would help normalize people's post-holiday feelings. Consider talking with a mental health professional about how you feel. They have had many clients who have felt the same way as you. Knowing you aren't alone can be very healing.
Consider That You Might Have Seasonal Affective Disorder.
If you live in an area that has limited sunlight during the winter, the holidays may have helped you with feelings of seasonal depression. You had something to look forward to during an otherwise gray, dreary season. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a repeated pattern of major depressive episodes that occur in the fall and winter and get better in the spring. About 1.5 to 9 percent of people experience SAD, which is more prevalent the higher your latitude on the planet (Nussbaumer-Streit et al., 2019).
Less sunlight during the fall and winter leads to a greater incidence of SAD. SAD is an "official" diagnosis in the DSM-5 (2013). Treatments for SAD include light therapy, antidepressant medication, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (Galima, Vogel, & Kowalski, 2020).
You May Be Upset About Returning to Work.
If you had some time off during the holidays, you might not be looking forward to returning. Not wanting to go back to work is a normal feeling, especially if your days were filled with fun activities. However, if you dread returning to the point where you are having difficulty getting out of bed, consider that a change might be needed. Sometimes having time off makes people realize even more how much their jobs might not be good for their well-being. Consider if your job matches your beliefs and values. If not, consider consulting with a career counselor about making a change.
Make a List of What You Are Looking Forward To.
When feeling the anti-climatic nature of the post-holiday season, consider making a list of what you have to look forward to in the new year. Sometimes looking forward to an event can help us with the post-holiday blues. If you have difficulty coming up with something to look forward to, start by listing what makes you happy or content.
You can also write a list of what brings meaning to your life. Sometimes we need to make our own events to look forward to instead of waiting for them to come to us. If you feel like you don't have anything to look forward to, consider talking with a mental health professional.
If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, seek help immediately. For help 24/7, dial 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.
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American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
Galima, S. V., Vogel, S. R., & Kowalski, A. W. (2020). Seasonal affective disorder: common questions and answers. American family physician, 102(11), 668-672.
Nussbaumer‐Streit, B., Forneris, C. A., Morgan, L. C., Van Noord, M. G., Gaynes, B. N., Greenblatt, A., ... & Gartlehner, G. (2019). Light therapy for preventing seasonal affective disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (3).