When I asked a colleague, a Boston-based therapist, his perception of available resources for dealing with “post-holiday blues,” he shook his head and commented, “We really don’t have much good research to draw from. Nevertheless, it’s something important we need to be aware of and address.”
In his online article, “Give Yourself Permission to Feel: How to Lessen Post-Holiday Blues,” Richard O’Connor, a psychotherapist with offices in New York and Connecticut, wrote, “Clinics like ours see many more depressed people after the holidays. My theory is that most people put on their character armor a little tighter at this time of year and do everything they can to get through a stressful time, then allow themselves to fall apart a little bit afterwards.”
If this is true, then why isn’t more attention paid to post-holiday depression? Perhaps, as both Jessie and Mr. O’Connor imply, we feel we’re not allowed to express sadness during a “festive” time, so we wait to crash afterwards.
The problem Jessie raises is an important one. If we don’t feel allowed to express sadness (much less experience it) during the holidays, how long is the statute of limitations?
Sounding the Alarm
First, an alarm bell should be sounded any time we hear someone say they don’t believe they are “allowed to feel,” as Jessie indicated. We are entitled to our emotions, however “out of synch” they may seem. The time of year does not matter.
Perhaps what is most important to recognize is that, while the holidays can be compared to a roller coaster, a roller coaster ride is many things: fun, exciting, scary, unpredictable, and potentially dangerous. Instead of fearing the depth of emotions present during the holidays and dreading the drop when they’re over, the best approach is balance. Embrace this time of year with as much honesty as possible, understanding that moments of intense sadness, extraordinary joy and every emotion in between may occur.
After doing my research, this is what I said to Jessie, and what I would recommend to others: Remember, our lives consist of more than the month between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. The richness and complexity of life happens every day. There’s no reason to feel badly that you feel badly, and no reason to force your feelings to be different from what they are.
Prepare yourself emotionally for the holidays, and prepare for their aftermath. Try to maintain a balance in your life during the hectic holiday rush, and you’ll have an easier time maintaining that balance as you proceed into the new year. Don’t wait to see empty champagne bottles. Take down your Christmas tree before it turns to mulch in the living room, and enjoy yourself as much as possible, without the need to nail a smile to your face. Just be you! And if that means feeling lousy, go ahead. You won’t be the only one. You might even share a laugh with someone else who didn’t get her or his wish fulfilled for a thoroughly joyous holiday season. In fact, you’re sure to have plenty of company sharing that laugh!
Greenberg, B. (2006). Wrung-Out by Ringing-In the Holidays: Dealing with Post-Holiday Blues. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 10, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/wrung-out-by-ringing-in-the-holidays-dealing-with-post-holiday-blues/000340
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.