Coping with Post-Holiday Depression

Two Christmas trees on the pavementIf you had a tough time with the holidays because of loneliness, depression, or family dysfunction, then you may be glad they are done – yet you still may be facing the disappointment of recognizing once again that your family isn’t quite like Tiny Tim’s.  Or, perhaps you had a wonderful holiday full of sparkle and sharing, but now it’s over, and you feel a sense of letdown and loss.

For some, the post-holiday blues can last more than a day or two and can be accompanied by serious symptoms of depression such as difficulty sleeping or getting out of bed; loss of appetite or compulsive eating; feelings of hopelessness; endlessly ruminating about your failures and losses; and even suicidal thinking.

Here are some suggestions that may help.  Please don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t do all of them – in fact, if you do even one, that’s terrific, and may help you enormously.  If you can’t bring yourself to try any of the others, at least consider reaching out for help (that’s #9).

1.  Think of this as a time for a new perspective.  Use some of your alone time to set your priorities in order and perhaps consider a change – signing up for a new activity, letting go of toxic friendships, even a change of job or a move to a new locality.

2.  When possible spend time with others. Though you may be separated again by miles from those you love, keep reaching out to them.  Plan another visit to take place before next Christmas.  Look up an old friend or family member who lives nearby, even if you haven’t seen them in a while.

3.  Make plans for activities you can look forward to.  Get tickets to a play, schedule a weekend visit to a friend, plan a summer (or spring) vacation.  When you spend time planning and looking forward, you’ll be spending that much less time dwelling on the past.

4.  Try to focus on good health habits.  Without beating yourself up for unwise holiday eating, buy some fresh fruits and vegetables, prepare some healthier meals, and try to start or return to an exercise plan – even if it starts as just a 5 minute walk each day, some exercise is better than none at all.  Healthy foods and exercise will boost your mood much like antidepressants do – by helping the brain make new connections.

5.  Exercise your brain!  Use the Internet or a real live class to learn a new language, study a subject that has always interested you, find someone to teach you to play bridge.  Activities that require you to be around other people count as extra credit!

6.  Sign up to do some volunteer work. You can find volunteer opportunities at VolunteerMatch.org.  Helping others is a great way to get out of your own head and feel better about yourself – even perhaps make some new friends.

7. Freshen up your resume and start looking around for a job that will make your future brighter.

8.  De-clutter your house. Gather up all the stuff that’s been collecting dust around your house and give it to an organization like GoodWill Industries.  Or have a yard sale!

9.  Reach out for help. If you live near Drexel Hill or Haverford, PA, you can make an appointment to see a therapist at Psych Choices of the Delaware Valley through our Make An Appointment Page or call us at 610-626-8085, ext. 213 for Intake. If you don’t live near us, try finding a therapist on GoodTherapy.org or PsychologyToday.com.


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