After weeks, maybe even months, of decorating, shopping and wrapping, baking, visiting and being visited, the whole thing is over in a day or two. Suddenly, the display that seemed so essential to get up on the house looks just wrong. The tree is dropping needles. The house that was so sparkling clean before Christmas now decidedly needs a good vacuuming. How’d that happen? Yeah. Kids and dogs and visitors are a household demolition derby. If that weren’t enough, you’re trying to make peace with the fact that your sister gave you soap when you gave her a lovely sweater and the uncle you spent so much agonizing time making a vegan dish for decided not to even stop by. It’s hard to stay in that twinkly holiday mood when it feels so over.
It’s not that unusual. Some studies show as many as 25 percent of Americans suffer from low-grade to full-blown depression after the holidays. The hype and excitement and, yes, expectation, for jolliness buoy up many in the buildup to the Big Day. But then expectations hit reality. Relatives aren’t always kind. Gifts aren’t given and received in the spirit intended. The fantasy that maybe this year will be different is dashed yet again. It’s hard for even the most resilient not to feel a letdown. For those who are prone to depression anyway, the weeks after a holiday can feel like the emotional rug has been pulled out from them.
Yes, there are some things to do about it.
If you are taking antidepressants: This is not the time to stop. You may feel they aren’t doing their job but it’s also possible that things would be much worse if you weren’t taking them at all. Confer with your psychiatrist.
If you are in therapy: Make sure you talk about what is bothering you. Your therapist can’t help you if you skirt around issues or if, in some misguided attempt not to bother the therapist too much, you don’t tell her how bad you feel. If things are feeling really grim, you might want to ask for an extra appointment.
Whether in treatment or not:
Take care of yourself. From Halloween to New Year’s, Americans tend to redefine the basic food groups to sugar, fats, sugar, and sometimes alcohol. “Enough” is redefined as “stuffed.” Get back to a healthy diet with reasonable portions. Add a walk at least once a day and a more regular bedtime. Regular routines of self-care may have disappeared over the past month but you can reclaim them.