Whether returning to the same old routine, coping with unmet goals and unrealistic expectations, or missing family and friends, life after the holidays can sometimes be a burden. Fortunately, there is expert advice available from a few psychologists on ways to avoid the post-holiday depression that some people can suffer from.
Carol Goldberg, a psychologist based in New York, said in a phone interview that there are several causes for post-holiday depression, including people expecting too much from the holidays, causing a let-down effect.
“One of the things to prevent that is to have more realistic expectations,” Goldberg said. “You’re not going to get all the things that you wanted for gifts.”
She suggests not to expect the holidays to solve problems or fulfill wishes, along with setting realistic expectations.
One example of a realistic goal is losing weight. However, many people expect to lose 50 pounds in a week, or some other unrealistic weight, soon become disappointed because of that.
“Pace yourself,” Goldberg said. “Set smaller goals so it’s not overwhelming. People have this idea that they’re going to magically approach their goals and they have to realize that goals should be with subgoals and they should reward themselves when they reach those subgoals with something healthy.”
For those losing weight, a reward should be a non-food item, like a new movie or maybe a hair appointment.
Elaine Rodino, a psychologist in Pennsylvania, also brings up the idea of expectations.
“People can understand that whole expectation thing in terms of children…it’s easy to see it in young children,” Rodino said in a phone interview. “They don’t expect to have it as adults, but we can still have it as adults and it’s pretty natural to have it and it’s not neurotic to have it.”
She said it’s natural to have some feelings of being let down due to high expectations, especially with all the gaiety that is soon followed by boredom (in comparison), but when a person feels miserable, there is something more serious happening.
However, like previously mentioned, when expectations are not so high that they can’t be reached, some of this disappointment can be avoided. Everyone knows that New Year’s resolutions generally don’t last when they’re unobtainable, so don’t keep repeating the same mistake of creating that high-and-mighty resolution. Do expect something from yourself, just not the impossible.
In some cases, a more severe depression might be the real cause of the blues, especially if the post-holiday depression lingers, lasting for more than two weeks. Then it’s time to see a mental health care professional for help.