Do You Have a Case of the Post-Holiday Blues?

sitting on snowy park benchThe holidays are a time of nonstop activity for many people. Shopping and buying gifts for loved ones, eating large and often unhealthy meals, traveling, and spending time with family can all add up to a lot of stress.

For some, the holidays bring both excitement and dread. We want to experience the magic of giving, but in reality we often end up spending more than we can afford. We want to reconnect with family and friends, but too much closeness can lead to the rekindling of old conflicts and problems. Those who are unable to visit loved ones over the holidays may feel isolated and left out. The holidays rarely meet our expectations, and we often end up feeling disappointed and upset as a result.

In January, many people tend to make resolutions to do things differently in the new year. After so much indulgence over the holidays, some vow to lose weight and become healthier but often have difficulty following through. Other common resolutions include improving our financial situations and working on our relationships, but making lasting changes in either domain can be challenging. These types of stressors in our lives can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression.

Another issue after the holiday season can be settling back into our day-to-day routines, which can be somewhat of a letdown. The reality of the credit card debt we’ve incurred or the dysfunctional family dynamics we’ve experienced can make us feel sad and discouraged. Although these feelings are not uncommon, when should we take our post-holiday blues seriously?

The following are a few of the red flags worth watching out for:

  1. Isolating from others. When people start to isolate from friends and family, this can be a clear sign they may be feeling depressed and could benefit from seeking out help to deal with their emotions.
  2. Excessive sadness or irritability. Unusual changes in moods can indicate someone is going through a difficult time. If an individual is feeling unhappy, hopeless, sad, or irritable for no particular reason, therapy can be beneficial to explore some of the underlying issues they may need to work through.
  3. Changes in eating or sleeping patterns. Another sign to look out for would be if an individual starts to eat a lot more or less than usual. People may use food to “numb out” uncomfortable feelings or stop eating on a regular basis if feeling depressed. Deviations in sleeping habits can also be a red flag, whether the individual starts to experience insomnia or, on the contrary, sleeps a lot more than usual.
  4. No longer enjoying activities. Another red flag that someone may be feeling depressed would be when he or she stops appreciating activities that used to bring the person pleasure.
  5. Substance abuse. If an individual starts trying to cope with emotions in an unhealthy way, such as by drinking or using drugs, this can be a sign that something is amiss and help should be sought.
  6. Inability to function. Another sign of depression would be if someone has begun to struggle with completing normal job responsibilities or routine tasks that previously posed no problem.
  7. Thoughts of self-harm. Any time anyone starts thinking or talking about harming themselves, or about suicide, the person should immediately seek help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and someone is there to talk or listen whenever needed.

Although dealing with the blues around or after the holidays is not uncommon, struggling with deeper feelings of depression should always be taken seriously. If you or someone you love has been experiencing any of the warning signs above, getting professional help may be the best gift you could possibly give. It’s never too late.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • tommy

    January 18th, 2016 at 7:35 AM

    I sort of go through this pretty much every year. I think that a large part of it comes form the fact that over the holidays you are just so busy, constantly doing something, and then you get that little after shock of what am I supposed to do now that it is all over? I don’t know if it’s depression or just a little bit of a let down after all the fun stuff is over and done with for a while.

  • Cam

    January 18th, 2016 at 11:13 AM

    Any one of these if they are out of character with the person that you know could be a signal that there is something pretty serious going on. You might want to consider jumping in for a little bit, having a face to face talk with this person and at least taking a little bit of inventory to determine if this is something that is serious enough for you to suggest them getting some help. I would just like to have them know that someone is thinking about them and cares enough about them to be concerned when you think that there is something going on that should be addressed.

  • molly

    January 18th, 2016 at 3:07 PM

    Most of us decidedly get a little off kilter during the holidays because it can be so hard to keep a normal schedule with everything going on.
    There are times for all of us when it probably feels a little difficult to get back on track, and actually get back to what we consider to be our state of normalcy.

  • jon

    January 19th, 2016 at 9:09 AM

    How about look at it as post holiday possibilities?

  • Kennedy

    January 20th, 2016 at 2:30 PM

    To make matters worse for me this year I have three relatives in hospice care all at the same time. Believe me this is not going to be start of the new year that I am ever going to remember too fondly. But we will get through it I know, it’s just hard to think of the three wonderful people in my life that I am about to lose soon.

  • Jack

    January 21st, 2016 at 11:11 AM

    goodness yes and all of this snow at my house is about to make things a whole lot worse

  • Rhonda

    January 26th, 2016 at 3:43 PM

    I remember seeing my mother go through this each year. She so loved the holidays that she would put up our Christmas tree every year right after Halloween. So we had months of celebration., But then the inevitable would happen and along with the new year would come what I know was sadness in her heart. I think that it just made her so happy to make this a special time of year for all of us and when that was over, she would lose a little bit of her sparkle for a while. As she got older I just wanted to pretend that it was always Christmas because that was the one thing that would still bring a smile to her face.

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