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Post-Holiday Depression: Why Are You Feeling So Low After the Best Time of Year?

By HERWriter
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Though some people dread having to see their family around the winter holidays and don't enjoy Christmas shopping and the colder weather, others feel more depressed after the holidays are over, since they have to go back to the same routine, among other haunting realities. This is known as post-holiday depression. This can start after Christmas or similar holidays and/or after New Year's Day, depending on when a person celebrates.

According to an article on www.psychcentral.com, the possible causes of post-holiday depression are "unmet expectations, unrealistic resolutions, and a return of loneliness and guilt about overindulgence." For example, perhaps someone trys to give all her friends and family members gifts

and fails. Maybe a different person overspends and purchases gifts for everyone and is now in debt. Another person might try to lose 10 pounds after Christmas but just can't get motivated. Yet another might return to another state, away from family members. These all can happen and don't feel very uplifting, which can lead to depression in some people.

The author of the article suggested that people treat the holidays no differently than any other time of the year. Just because it's Christmas, Hanukkah or another holiday, it doesn't mean everyone has to pretend to be happy when they're not. That can be depressing by itself.

Post-holiday depression generally only lasts for a short period of time. If the depression lasts longer, it can be classified as a more "serious" type of depression, though all types of depression should be regarded with care. According to an article on Suite 101, post-holiday depression is considered more of a mental distress than a mental disorder, since it's so fleeting and makes a minimal impact for the most part on the person who has it.

The idea that post-holiday depression is short-lived can be found in an article from www.PennLive.com. The article compares seasonal affective disorder to post-holiday depression, saying that "SAD isn’t the post-holiday blues people tend to get in January or the cabin fever resulting
from being indoors for too long on shorter days and in inclement weather."

Symptoms of post-holiday depression are the same as during the holidays or during any type of depression, though of course they are less severe and probably for different reasons. According to the University of Maryland's Medical Center Web site, some symptoms of the "holiday blues" are
headaches, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, weight and appetite differences, and agitation and anxiety, among others.

On a fact sheet found on Mental Health America's Web site, people with post-holiday depression are given some recognition, though there is more of a focus on depression during the holidays and for seasonal affective disorder. The suggested cause for post-holiday depression is
"disappointments during the preceding months compounded by the excess fatigue and stress."

There is mention of people having more illnesses after the holidays in a Psychology Today blog, which can be linked to stress and the "let down effect." This effect is characterized as "a condition where high energy or activation levels in the body are immediately followed by a rapid drop in activation levels." The stress and more joyful feelings during the holidays (at least for some people) can leave a person depleted physically after the highstrung feelings of the holidays are over. Perhaps the mind and body can both be sick, in a sense, after the holidays.


Add a Comment17 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I'm thankful I live in a cold climate, so I had snow to look forward to in January.

I sometimes have that bluish 'back to reality' feeling after New Year's Day.

I remember as a kid I hated when we had to return to school right after New Year's Day.

What I often do now is still take down the Christmas/Hanukkah decorations, but replace them with generic winter decorations like white lights and snowflake designs, so my place doesn't look bare and dull in January.

I also have a huge poster of a snowy mountain range that covers one wall that I put up every New Year's Day and leave up until March.

I'm also close to retirement age, so once I retire, I can set up my own schedule and not have to dread the 'back to the saltmines' syndrome in early January.

I have a friend who has a teaching job that she loves...so for her, returning to work after the holidays isn't bad and she plans fun winter activities with her students.

Some people also schedule a few days off in either late January or early February, so there's a break from monotony.

December 26, 2016 - 7:40pm
EmpowHER Guest

Anonymous, many people feel the same way, including myself. One suggestion I read for the post Christmas blues is to go to New Orleans Mardi Gras in February each year. It is a blast and will give you something to look forward to. And then, summer is just around the corner!

January 18, 2016 - 9:11am
EmpowHER Guest

One way I cope with the post Christmas blues is I leave most of my Christmas decorations up until the days get a little longer, mostly the lights. I have artificial trees so it does make it easier to do that. I start taking things down around Ash Wednesday / Beginning of Lent time. I also find if we have a good snow fall in January it helps my mood too. Good luck everyone. Also remember baseball pitchers report for spring training in early February. Spring is coming, hang in there.

January 4, 2016 - 6:38am
EmpowHER Guest

"tries", not "trys". Editing, please!

December 29, 2015 - 11:37am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Dont be a gramnar jerk.

January 3, 2017 - 4:48pm
EmpowHER Guest

I just found this article. I have a very hard time after the holidays are over. I just found myself arguing with customer service representatives, on the verge of tears, and just sad that everything is over. Whenever fall arrives, it's like "life" arrives. The season change is beautiful. It gets cool, vivid outside, and then the fun starts. Even though I am fully grown, I still love Halloween. And then you can look forward to Thanksgiving. Then to Christmas. There is happy music all over the place, all over the radio, Christmas commercials, movies, etc. You can go out and feel like a kid again when you drive through the city and see people decorate. And then it all comes to an abrupt stop. And what do you get in return? No holidays, cold, gray skies, stuck inside. It takes me a very long time to recover from the "loss" of Christmas. It takes me several months. It has been this way for about 5 years now. I guess because I feel like it's the one time of year that meets my spirit, sort to speak. It's not to say that I can't be happy year round. But there's something special about the last holidays of the year. I kind of wish Christmas just faded away gradually, little by little. I just don't understand myself, though. I never got this bad when I was a child. I don't personally subscribe to any of the feelings in the article. I don't feel guilty about spending, I don't feel any regrets, etc. I just feel happy and joyful and I can't seem to capture that magic throughout the year. Eventually I do, but I just feel a big loss after Christmas and I don't know how to explain it otherwise. I like summer. Summer is fun and light. But Christmas is life.

January 2, 2015 - 3:31pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I know exactly how you feel! Two years to the day after your comment, and it's bringing comfort to someone else. Thank you.

January 2, 2017 - 7:50pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I feel the exact same way as you. Your comments really hit home especially where it all starts with Halloween. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I think the post Christmas blues carried over for me from my childhood. I used to get REALLY sad when we had to go back to school. And for some reason, I never liked New Years Eve because it was like sealing the end of the holidays. I mean, Christmas was only a week before that! To this day, New Years Eve still makes me a tad sad and I'd really just rather sleep through it. I guess I just never got into it even though I have many memories of staying up with my parents. And like you, I love summer and used to have a really hard time getting through January to March. I do have positive things to look forward to. Income Tax refunds, football playoffs, etc. I suggest having some extra taxes taken out just so you can expect a little gift and maybe get yourself something nice. Mind you, I'm a 39 year old male. I exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle which does help. Exercise has paid HUGE dividends in my mood. Once the Super Bowl is over though, I still have a tough time. Lucky for me, I have my work bonus in the month February and my daughters birthdays in March. So I do now have things to look forward to that has made it easier. I also love St. Patricks Day because to me that marks the end of winter. I recently found out that my dad is the exact same way. So you are not alone in the winter blues.


December 29, 2016 - 2:16pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

You put that so well. My post Christmas/holiday blues didn't hit until after New Years in full. But the past week or so has been full of a lot of bittersweet nostalgia on my part, thinking of the past, etc. Also, it was my wife and I first Christmas married and it was so special. We just took down the tree today and I feel bad about throwing it away, it gave us so much warmth and beauty over the past month! In fact I think I will recycle it in the woods as I can't bear to put it out for garbage men.

January 3, 2016 - 1:47pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hey, Anonymous. Just had to comment that a lot of us feel that way (I'm dealing with the post-Christmas depression problem right now). Best I can figure, it has a lot to do with weeks of building up for Christmas and then -- bam! -- it's over in one day. As soon as we cross midnight on Dec. 25th, it's rather like we simply shrug our shoulders and get back to work.

It wasn't that way when we were kids, though. No, we had a couple of weeks off and Christmas was more like a cherished season than a day off from a job we hate.

The point is this -- returning to "normal" after a great holiday is tough for some of us adults who love the break from reality that Christmas affords us. I do believe, then, post-holiday depression has a lot to do with the fact that Christmas gives us an escape from a lot of unpleasantness, and that escape is over when the holiday is gone.

December 28, 2015 - 1:02am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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