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The most recent holiday season was certainly different than any other we’ve experienced.
Instead of office holiday parties, the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and large family gatherings, many of us opted to shop online, forgo work parties and stay home with immediate family. Traditional trips to see a production of the Nutcracker were replaced with drives to see holiday lights or watching that holiday concert online at home.
While the post-holiday blues is not a new phenomenon, now that the holidays are over, the loss of those holiday traditions may have left more people feeling down.
Post-holiday depression can set in after life slows down and the adrenaline rush we get from shopping, decorating or going from one holiday party to another ends. People may also be grieving the loss of beloved holiday traditions to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For many people, there may be a bit more grieving going on this year,” says Mary Schramer, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist at Linden Oaks Medical Group. “They may be grieving the loss of their usual activity or that they didn’t get to see people they normally would see at the holidays. For those who have experienced the death of a loved one in the past year, the grief may be even more intense,” she adds.
Other things, such as increased sugar consumption over the holidays, can lead to a change in mood in January. Those sugary treats may have led to increased levels of dopamine in December, but in January we may find ourselves feeling a bit sluggish.
Dr. Schramer recommends trying to get back to as much of a normal routine as possible to help kick the post-holiday blues.
“One of the things we have to do is to try to get into as much of a normal routine as we can create,” she says. “We need to respect our need for sleep and having the nutrition that we need to be healthy and strong.”
She also suggests finding ways to stay active or involved. You could try setting a regular time for an outdoor hike, head online to sign up for a virtual class, or register to watch a concert.
“Make plans to take some sort of action,” says Dr. Schramer.
Typically, the holiday blues last a few days and subside once you return to a normal routine. If you notice feelings of sadness lasting a couple of weeks it might be time to contact a therapist. Other signs that your post-holiday blues has turned into depression include not being able to care for yourself, changes in appetite and/or changes in sleep patterns.
If you are already seeing a therapist, you may want to ask to schedule extra sessions to help work through post-holiday depression.
“Don’t be afraid to use the tools that are available to you to help get back on track,” says Dr. Schramer.
Therapy services are available through Linden Oaks Medical Group. To schedule an appointment call 630-305-5118.
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