No need to wallow in post-holiday blues


For the Mirror

After the tinsel, eggnog and holiday gift-giving have concluded, an emotional let-down after the holidays is not uncommon. Emotional equilibrium imitates Newton’s law of gravity: What goes up, must come down.

For this reason, some people find themselves feeling blue once all the initial excitement of the holidays has worn off and come to an end.

Anticipation of the holiday season only adds to the sense of let-down that is experienced by January. Many of us have looked forward to the holidays with joyful anticipation since we were old enough to understand the concept. As children who believed in the magic of Santa Claus, the kid in all of us continues to look forward to the holiday season with enthusiasm. November and December are months for enjoying delicious meals, seasonal decorations and spending time with loved ones.

So why doesn’t it always feel as enjoyable as we would like? In fact, with all of the anticipation leading up to the seasonal celebration, a psychological low after the holidays have passed is almost inevitable.

How many times have you found yourself echoing the sentiment, “This will be the best holiday season ever!” only to feel a sense of disappointment at the end of the year? There are those of us who approach the holidays with secretly held optimism in the hopes that this will be the celebration to rival all others- –– the year the meal turns out perfectly and family members achieve new heights of love and appreciation for each other.

Each holiday season is viewed as a new opportunity for achievement of these expectations. When reality falls short, disappointment, discouragement and post-holiday blues emerge.

Surviving the aftermath of the holidays can leave some people feeling like war casualties. High-interest credit card debt as a result of overspending and extra pounds accrued from rich holiday meals due to over indulgence may only add to the low mood that started weighing you down since the new year. Many people feel worse after the holidays rather than better.

If you or someone you know is suffering from post-holiday blues, take heart that you are not alone. Many people feel a similar low after the season has ended.

However, if your low mood persists for more than two weeks and affects your ability to function in different aspects of your life, such as work, school or family, then seek professional help. Otherwise, breathe easy that you and your family survived another year of holidays.

And remember to set the bar on expectations a little lower for the next year.

Jennifer L. Gray, Ph.D., is a private-practice psychotherapist in individual, couple and family counseling in Federal Way. She can be reached at (253) 653-0168 or Psychotherapy Associates, Parklane Executive Center, 31620 23rd Avenue South, Suite 318, Federal Way, WA 98003.

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