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Settling back into a daily routine after the excitement of the holidays can be a real drag

Photo by Mico Mazza

Ever feel down after the holiday season passes? You’re not the only one. Many people every year feel blue past the holidays. The post-holiday blues can affect anyone, of any age, for many reasons. Even if it seems normal to feel a bit blah after the excitement of the holidays ends, if that sadness extends past the couple of days after returning to your normal schedule, you may be suffering from post-holiday depression.

The winter holidays are a busy time of year. People are running around trying to buy gifts and wrapping paper, decorate, cook big dinners, plan social events, and do all the other fun stuff most people enjoy about the holidays. So why is it that people fall into a depression after such a joyous and exciting time?

“Depression is an experience that is mostly associated with past regrets, memories, and failures,” says University of Calgary psychology professor Keith Dobson, who studies depression. “The higher risk period is after the holiday, when expectations have been perhaps unfulfilled, family feuds erupted, money was over spent, etc.”

Though Dobson gives many different reasons for the depression that comes after the holidays, University of Ottawa psychology student Jennifer Snell believes it is largely due to the amount of money spent throughout November and December.

“I find that the holidays bring people into short-term depression afterwards because of the money they spent before Christmas,” she says. “People spend most of their money at Christmastime and feel great about it, but afterwards they regret spending that much and they worry about the repercussions of spending that much, such as mortgage or bills.”

The cost of the holidays is usually very significant and if you’re someone who stresses about money most of the time, buying presents and food for gatherings can really put you over budget. After spending lots of money buying gifts for all your loved ones, getting slammed by the expenses of the real world and paying off your holiday credit card bills can be pretty taxing.

“I think the manifestation of post-holiday depression could be related to the build-up of excitement in culture surrounding the holiday season, especially for university students,” says U of O health sciences student Danielle Hemet. “The build-up before the holidays is huge, with countdowns, resolutions to make, parties to plan and attend, not to mention every store and television seems to suddenly begin advertising holiday cheer on Nov. 1. People who live away from home could have added reason to feel blue after the holidays, since going back to school means leaving all your friends and family behind.”

Although everyone can experience the effects of post-holiday depression—children, teenagers, and adults—Hemet argues that some may have a more difficult time with it than others.

“I think it would be possible to be more susceptible to post-holiday depression if you already suffer from or have been treated in the past for depression or seasonal affective disorder,” she says. “People fitting that description could be more susceptible, as they stand the chance of already experiencing symptoms of depression.”

Clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg listed a few ways to help prevent or lessen these post-holiday blues in an article published in the Huffington Post. She advised methods like creating a reasonable spending budget and sticking to it and getting back into a healthy diet and workout routine as soon as possible once the holiday binging days are done.

Last but not least, seek help from a professional if sadness and anxiety levels become hard to bear. Don’t put it off thinking it sounds silly to be depressed after the holidays. Remember, post-holiday depression is still depression and shouldn’t be brushed aside if you feel it’s a little too much to handle on your own.