Do You Feel Depressed After the Holidays?

By Joannie DeBrito, Ph.D., LCSW, LMFT
By Danielle Pitzer
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
iStock/tommaso79
Do you get the after-holiday “blahs”? Here are some ideas to help you get back to feeling like your normal self.

For many parents, the holiday season can be an overwhelming experience. We try to ignore that nagging feeling that there should be more peace and enjoyment during all the party planning, shopping and traveling, but there is so little time to stop and relax. There’s still all that food to prepare! Should it be ham or turkey this year? Did Aunt Sarah have a nut allergy or was it gluten sensitivity?

For many, the holiday craziness can feel a bit like being trapped in a snow globe, an uncontrollable flurry of activity swirling around us. But that storm does settle, the calendar rolls into another year, and we look back at the holidays wondering if all the effort and expense were really worth the supposedly “most wonderful time of the year.”

Most of all, we just feel . . . blah.

The majority of people who get the after-holiday “blahs” are experiencing a very normal reaction to the frenzied pace of the previous month. Like a child having too much sugar, our tendency to overspend and overindulge results in a sort-of crash once the season ends. We’ve done too much, eaten too much and neglected sufficient sleep and exercise. It’s no surprise that January finds us with low energy and turbulent emotions.

The winter blues are a consequence of abandoning the patterns that keep our bodies and minds healthy and stable. To cope, we need to return to healthy routines. It’s also helpful to identify what caused us to depart from those patterns and plan ways to avoid those mistakes in the future. Here are some suggestions:

Healthy eating after the holidays

The parties are over, but there are plenty of leftovers. When we consume too much fat and sugar, we experience a temporary spike in energy followed by a much longer period of lethargy. This contributes to a cycle of more sitting, less exercise and more snacking. There is often a correlation between these unhealthy choices and depression.
Wean yourself off those fats and sugars by reducing portions and the frequency that you dip into that massive canister of holiday treats still sitting on the counter. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. And perhaps most importantly, stay hydrated throughout the day. Water helps fill our stomachs, diminishing the itch to snack, and it also helps our bodies digest food.

Rest and restoration

If you’re not getting seven to nine hours of sleep per day, aim to get to bed earlier. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and turn off those tablets and smartphones by early evening. This helps quiet down the brain and prepare for better sleep.

You need about 30 minutes of rigorous exercise per day. Whether a brisk walk, climbing stairs or jumping rope, aerobic exercise is known to increase the level of serotonin (a chemical that boosts one’s mood). And get outdoors when the weather permits. Sunshine produces Vitamin D in our bodies, promoting serotonin production. Use sunblock as needed to protect from burning, but find the right balance to reap some of the benefits of natural sunlight.

Gratitude and growth

Remember the song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music? There’s a profound truth behind this little song. Expressing gratitude for the things that bring us joy in life greatly contributes to our health. An attitude of gratitude leads to improvements in sleep and in our cardiovascular and immune systems.

Scripture admonishes us to thank God “always and for everything” (Ephesians 5:20). This includes the things that bring us happiness, but also the challenges that God allows in our lives. This attitude of gratitude is a major part of our mental health because it increases serotonin, dopamine and melatonin — natural brain chemicals known to improve our mood.

Wisdom for the future

A major source of the post-holiday blues is facing those inevitable bills from budget-busting purchases. Make a reasonable plan for paying off those bills before purchasing anything else, and if overspending is a chronic problem, research local classes that can help you develop good financial habits. Many employers and churches offer programs, such as Financial Peace University, to help families learn strategies for wise financial decisions.

We must develop a mindset that can help us make better choices about how we spend our money over future holidays. Consider this past year’s purchases. What was the motivation for the purchase? How was the gift received? How is it being used now? The gift of your child’s dreams lasts only as long as that gift has value to the child, which may end long before the bills are paid. Consider that most kids really want quality time with their parents more than gifts and that the memories of the season will last much longer than the material possessions.

Slow down

Why do the good and healthy parts of the holiday season have to end so quickly? If you don’t do well with abrupt endings, feel free to gradually back away from the reminders of the holiday season. Take down decorations a few at a time, or plan a special family dinner for early in the new year and reminisce by looking at photos and videos from the past year. No, you’re not trying to create new sources of stress. You’re just reserving a little time for the peace and relaxation that you’d wished you had time for over the actual holidays.


Seasonal Sadness

If the blues seem to be a yearly winter ritual, consider whether you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This mental health condition tends to begin and end at the same time each year, usually during the months of shorter daylight hours when the sky is darker for longer stretches of time. For some people, SAD can occur in the spring and summer as well.

The disruption of a person’s internal body clock and lowering levels of serotonin and melatonin can cause seasonal depression. Those who have SAD feel depressed most of the day and show many of the symptoms of depression, such as a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, low energy, disrupted sleep, distraction and changes in appetite or weight, as well as feelings of hopelessness.

The symptoms are felt for a season of the year rather than on an ongoing basis. Typically, the suggestions to return to healthy routines and habits do little to alleviate the symptoms of SAD. Therefore, if you notice this pattern in yourself or someone you love, you should seek help from a licensed medical or mental health professional.

J.D.

Copyright © 2019 by Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Joannie DeBrito, Ph.D., LCSW, LMFT

As the current Director of Parenting and Youth at Focus on the Family, Joannie DeBrito draws from over 30 years of diverse experience as a parent educator, family life educator, school social worker, administrator and licensed mental health professional.

Danielle Pitzer

Danielle Pitzer is a freelance author.

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.