At the Christmas Lovers’ Club, we wait all year for the big day and love everything that comes with it, so we have become experts in making sure that as the festive season comes to a close each year, we find ways of keeping our spirits just as high all year round.
It’s the first regular week of January, which means it’s time to get back to work. It’s a huge relief for some. Even with all the joy and goodwill, it can be a financially, physically, and emotionally draining season. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people experience Christmas depression, which is commonly exacerbated by the season’s financial, emotional, and physical stress. Others, though, may experience post-holiday blues after coming down from the high of the most joyous occasion of the year’ (and the inevitable return to work).
After times of high emotion and stress, this dip, also known as post-vacation syndrome, stress, or sadness, can heavily impact. Many of the symptoms of post-holiday blues are similar to those of an anxiety or mood disorder: insomnia, poor energy, impatience, trouble concentrating, and stress. However, unlike mild depression, the distress is transient rather than chronic. Though depression that strikes during the holidays receives a lot more attention, the ailment isn’t all that prevalent. So, what’s causing this noticeable lack of post-holiday emissivity?
Although there isn’t much data on the matter, experts agree that the adrenaline drop is the primary cause. The abrupt withdrawal of stress hormones following a major event, such as a wedding, an important deadline, or the Christmas holidays. According to Princeton, NJ-based clinical psychologist Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, it can have a profound influence on our bodily and psychological well-being.
However, that is only one element of the puzzle. The contrast effect is also at work, which is a type of cognitive bias in which perception of differences is strengthened or lessened as a result of exposure to something with comparable traits but differing important qualities. It’s basically the brain’s attempt to re-establish order while adapting to vastly divergent events. And the first half of December is essentially one big break from your usual routine.
Unless you take a three-week vacation in August or another major break during the year, the holidays may be the only time your normal routine is disrupted. Even if your vacations weren’t particularly joyous, the brain amplifies the circumstances of day-to-day living, making the return to the commonplace appear disproportionately more anxiety-inducing and dismal than it is.
It’s a sign of healthy psychological functioning, according to Dr. Melissa Weinberg, a research consultant and psychologist specialized in well-being and cognitive psychology. “It’s just one of a series of delusions our brain tricks us into believing, similar to how we believe things occur to others more often than they do to us. In The New Daily, Weinberg notes that “the ability to deceive ourselves every day is an indicator of good mental and psychological functioning.” “So, whether we enjoyed our vacation and would prefer to be on vacation rather than back at work, our brain is constructed to make us believe we did or would.” As a result, we pay the emotional price for a relaxing break and experience a return to our previous level of happiness.”
Another potential cause of post-holiday depression is the significant burden of negotiating challenging situations and relations while maintaining your calm during holiday gatherings.
Putting up a false front and pretending happiness, according to Dr. Judith Orloff, psychiatrist and author of “Thriving as an Empath,” maybe immensely tiring. Dr. Richard O’Connor, a psychologist, believes that we “arm” ourselves over the holiday season as a coping technique to deal with stress, challenging emotions, and situations.
The sugar- and alcohol-fueled holiday diets that many of us thrive on could possibly be a factor. Alcohol is a well-known depressive, and studies have connected junk food to depression as well. Naturally, we may not be feeling our best after a near-month-long time of excessive consumption.
Getting yourself out of a post-holiday depression necessitates a renewed focus on the fundamentals of physical and mental health, as well as a shift in expectations:
Experts recommend that you get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a nutrient-dense diet to improve your mood and manage your depression symptoms. These habits typically fall by the wayside over the Christmas season, what with late-night events, sugary treats, and extensive to-do lists. If you’re having emotional difficulties, re-establishing them as a regular and non-negotiable part of your routine is critical to getting back on track. Make time for enjoyment.
Improved well-being requires increased social engagement. An empty schedule could feel a little sad now that the Christmas celebrations are over. Filling your calendar with things that you enjoy will give you something to look forward to and will assist to reduce the contrast effect. When you’re sad, it’s simple to withdraw. Even when you don’t feel like it, reaching out to and spending time with friends and other people you care about might bring a much-needed lift.
The post-holiday blues won’t last forever. Cut yourself some slack in the meantime. Don’t berate yourself for how you’re feeling; instead, take the time you need to regain your footing. If your symptoms don’t go away, you should see a doctor.
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