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Blog / Post-holiday depression / Is there life after holidays?
BLOG
Is there life after holidays?
The yellowish light of the streetlights illuminates the asphalt. Here and there, there is a fallen leaf under the feet, under the puddles. We walk in a hurry, staring thoughtfully at the sidewalk. You must get to work on time, pick up the kids at kindergarten afterwards, and buy something for lunch tomorrow on the way. Only two weeks left until the report submission deadline. An ordinary winter morning. Actually, it is not quite ordinary – it is Monday, the third of the new year.

Just a few days ago, the streets and shop windows were decorated, everything was shining, the faces of those we passed were different. Somehow brighter, more joyful, full of anticipation. Almost childlike. Where did the laughter, the music, the colorfulness go? Even the firecrackers are no longer heard. We almost miss them. The deafening silence presses on this early January morning, disturbed only by the sounds of traffic, but as if they are somewhere in the distance. The loan installment has been paid. But the bills are to yet to be paid - will there be enough money... Oh... and boots should be bought, is the thought that flies by when we feel that warm, then cold feeling on our toes...

A discarded yellowed Christmas tree sticks out from the container we pass, as a painful reminder of a short period when everything seemed nicer and easier. In December, many people made plans, made promises to themselves, how and what they would change in the coming year. And then the holidays approached - no matter how much we restrained ourselves, promised ourselves that we would spend rationally, many gave up, at the very end, carried away by colorful lights, discounts... I am one of them, to be completely honest. I justified my purchases either with a discount or by supporting small local producers. But was it necessary in the last days of December? No, but it made me happy and, for an instant, filled me with a feeling of happiness. And it put a smile back on my face. Briefly.

Many of us have ’lived beyond our means’, cards have been swiped as if they were not money, and the consequences of excessive (or quite normal, in another time, circumstances, place) spending are beginning to be felt already in the second half of January. That is why there is a subjective feeling that January is the longest month of the year.

We might have been overeating and drinking too much. And the scales have no mercy. So, in the third week of January, we face both a plus on the scale and a minus in the wallet.

However, the most devastating are the psychological effects left behind by the holidays. We call them all post-holiday depression.

Post-holiday depression is not imaginary. It is real and affects a lot of people.

How to recognize post-holiday depression?

The symptoms may vary, there may be just one or more, but the good news is - they pass and don't last long!

After holiday euphoria, anticipation of something new (perhaps an improved ‘version 1.24’ of ourselves) we can experience anxiety, lack of motivation to get moving and actually do something, we may have mood swings. Depressive sentiment, sadness, melancholy and insomnia are intensified at this time of the year. In relationships with others, we might ‘not be ourselves’ - irritability and violent reaction to every little thing is common. Maybe that ‘short fuse’ is the result of irregular sleep during the holidays, excessive expectations, unrealistic plans we made, or it was just waiting for the moment to appear, and all these feelings have been simmering in us for a long time. If thoughts of the holiday period, of good or bad moments, which we cannot get rid of, often come back to us, this will increase feelings of sadness, anxiety or stress. In my practice, during this period of the year, I often hear the sentence ‘I feel empty/emptied’. I really feel low. Everything is boring’. Yes, after a period of increased activity, intensive socializing, traveling, shopping, perhaps not entirely sincere joy, it is inevitable that our batteries will run out. Just like a wallet. For some, that emptiness was lurking around the corner all the time. Staying with dear people reminded us of those who are no longer with us and triggered the thought ‘which chair will be empty in a year’. The emptiness of loss is felt more strongly during and after the holidays, because it brings back good memories of those who have left us. Loneliness is not only felt by those who are alone, but also almost expected after the holidays. We all need a break from other people, going out.

How to deal with these feelings?

Don't resist these feelings. They are normal. Give yourself time to recover and get back into your daily routine. It's okay to be sad, tired, angry, or lonely. Be gentle with yourself, give yourself time to find your way again in emails, on social networks. It's okay to take a break from social media. The worst thing you can do for yourself is to compulsively post posts where you're smiling and your soul is crying, because you know it's just a mask.

Take care after yourself and of yourself. Treat yourself to small pleasures, which do not endanger health, and which will help you feel better. It is important that we do not do this by buying ourselves things and indulging in consumerism, be kind to yourself and your body. Get out of the house and walk to a park. Exercise. At least 5 minutes. Just to get started. Physical activity always improves mood, numerous studies have shown. It is important that we return to our normal diet as soon as possible (no fatty, overly spicy dishes, no alcoholic beverages), and to our usual sleep routine. Holiday days and nights are behind us, now it's time to let our body rest. Talk to people close to you about how you feel - you might be surprised to find that they feel the same way you do. If you watch movies - don't watch those with a New Year's theme. Watch a good comedy - laughter reduces stress levels, and that's what we need right now. And sometimes it will be enough just to remember that we have an event to look forward to - and we will already feel better and more alive. Look forward to what the future holds as the holidays are behind us.

Do I need professional help?

We all need, at some point in our lives, the professional help of a psychologist and/or psychiatrist, but that doesn't mean you should contact us because you feel ‘down’, depressed or lonely after the holidays. Symptoms of post-holiday depression (blues, melancholy, sadness) go away on their own, usually within two to three weeks, and that's good. However, if the symptoms do not go away or intensify, you should pay attention, because the holidays sometimes just started an avalanche of something that we suppressed for a long time. In the pre-holiday period, some clients take a ‘vacation’ from psychotherapy, carried away by the general excitement and good mood. Now is the time to remember why they started psychotherapy - people who have previously dealt with anxiety or depression are more vulnerable than others, and post-holiday depression can be a prelude to a more severe depressive episode or panic attacks. The holidays are a risky period for people who are in mourning, as well as for elderly people who live alone.

The bottom line is that we must seek the support and help of experts if the feeling of emptiness and listlessness turns into a feeling of hopelessness, when we notice that we cannot see anything good in the future, but also if we lack energy and motivation (even though we sleep enough), if it is hard for us to fall asleep, and even more difficult to wake up in the morning, if we sleep intermittently and need to ‘take something’ to relax, or if we are unusually uncomfortable or afraid to be with others or with our thoughts.
AUTHOR
Ana Vlajković, psychologist and psychotherapist