A short time ago, everyone was involved in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Brenda Lee was rockin’ around the Christmas tree and Bing Crosby was dreaming of a white Christmas. There were parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and caroling out in the snow. Well, you get the idea.
And just like that, it was over. There’s nothing quite as forlorn as a picked-over, after-Christmas sale in the middle of January. Thus sets the stage for post-holiday depression.
“Symptoms for post-holiday depression basically look similar to depression in general,” explains Gale Hobson, a psychologist and medical director for Mercy Behavioral Health. “Lack of energy, sleeping too long or too little, crying, sad thoughts that will not go away, focusing on negative events and comparing our lives to others. It is easy to think everyone else is having a great time, believing others have the perfect family or perfect holiday events.”
Hobson said it’s natural around the holidays to have some “blue days.”
“The blues are common, especially if expectations set from our childhood memories are high,” she says. “That can lead to a few days of let-down. But it really should not last longer than a week, and as a person returns to a regular schedule, feelings should return to normal.”
“Keep your perspective; relationships are much more important
than the turkey dinner and gifts being perfect.”
– Gale Hobson
While it’s still too early to think about shorts and flip-flops and all the fun summer has to offer, what else is there to do in the doldrums of winter? Hobson says staying on a normal schedule and exercising is important; that almost always helps with short-term blues. It’s equally important to be aware of your thoughts and expectations.
“Use [Christmas] day to enjoy your family,” she urges. “Be careful of over-doing both physically and emotionally at this time of the year, and avoid eating or drinking to excess. Keep your perspective; relationships are much more important than the turkey dinner and gifts being perfect.”
Depression can affect any age, and Hobson says parents need to monitor their children’s activities so they do not become exhausted. It’s also important to keep in mind the elderly, who may have an increased sense of loneliness during the holidays. Overall, post-holiday depression should be short in duration. If it lasts longer than one or two weeks, it may be an indicator that professional help is needed.
“If sad feelings and negative thoughts continue well past the holidays, then the person may need to be assessed by a professional,” she continues. “First, try a good diet full of fruits and vegetables and mild exercise, and of course, get plenty of regular sleep. Depression that continues into spring can be concerning, because the suicide rate is actually higher as the weather warms up and people become more active.
“The bottom line is this: Christmas is just one day of the 365 days we have to live each year. It is important to not let family issues become all-focused on this one day. It can be a precious time and there are not many of them available to us over a lifetime.”