The Post Holiday Blues - Why we Feel Let Down After a Big Event
All that Planning and Preparation
Christmas is over. The wrapping paper still fresh and crumpled in the garbage can is a testament to months of preparation and seasonal expectation. According to the National Retail Federation, the “average holiday shopper will spend $749.51 on gifts, décor, and greeting cards…” It’s not only shopping that is part of the preparation, but it is the decorating of the house (inside and out), the writing of Christmas cards, the planning and preparation of Christmas food. Add to this numerous other activities such as parties, gift exchanges, concerts, religious services and travel plans and Christmas takes enormous preparation. For most people, it is over in a day. And although not everyone celebrates Christmas and some celebrate more than others, there is little doubt that Christmas remains one of the biggest holidays of the year.
So when the holidays are over, naturally, there can be let down. The feeling can be one of relief, but also one of sadness. This is reminiscent of the post-race let down (PRLD) that runners feel after months and months of training and then finally completing their goal.
Runners feel PRLD says, Lyndsay Meyer, in an ESPN.com article because, “The body can be hormonally and metabolically altered during a race…”
Similarly, Rosemary Black, (Nydailynews.com) asks the question, “Are you feeling let-down, run-down, maybe a little bored and blah? You may be suffering from a widespread disorder called post-election blues...” She quotes psychiatrist Dr. Harold Levison who says “Feelings of mild sadness – the kind that can occur after a big event, like a wedding – are common…"
In fact, post-wedding depression is suffered by one in ten women in the first year of marriage. (Whitbourne 2012) And although hormonal factors come into play, Postpartum Depression is suffered by 20% of woman giving birth. (Stone 2010)
Is there something to this the post- whatever feeling? Are there reasons we bottom out after a big event?
More than a Feeling
Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning says it’s due to the “happy” chemicals in the brain that can turn off and on. Breuning describes the chemical dopamine and the letdown that can occur; “The day after a race or any other significant accomplishment, you often feel bad", says Breuning. "If you knew that your dopamine spiked from the big event, and now it's returning to normal, you might not burden yourself..."
If we want to delve further into psychological reasons for letdown, we can take a look at Solomon’s Opponent Process. Solomon said there are basically two components in every reaction to an emotional situation. The A reaction is short-lived and intense such as great joy after receiving an award. The B reaction is slower to build and slower to go away. So says this theory, if the A reaction is a happy emotion, the B reaction is sad, and vice versa. (Frontiers from Psychology)
Could we be reacting with excitement to Christmas (A) and then feeling the letdown afterward (B)?
Some Simple Solutions
It could be easier than that - Christmas, for many, is a magical time. We are taught to “expect” and “wait” through the season of advent; to prepare and "behave" as we count down the days. Naturally after the magic, waiting and preparation are over, we peak with excitement on Christmas day. What day can compete especially in child’s mind? How naturally to be disappointed afterward.
So how do we handle the post-holiday blues?
A Huffington Post article offers the following steps summarized for you below:
1. Cut yourself some slack (Give yourself a pass for a few days and don't feel annoyed or pressured if you don't feel 100 percent immediately.)
2. Work in structure (It can be helpful to try to resume your regular structure as soon as possible after the holidays have come to an end.)
3. Get your pamper on (As you make an effort to return to a schedule, you should also pause for a moment (or two) and give yourself a break.)
4. Stop the holiday binge (Now is the time to eliminate all of those starchy holiday foods and candies.)
5. Add in Omega 3's (Why? Omega-3s are mood boosters.)
6. Think high intensity (Get up and get active.)
7. Know when it’s time for help (If you feel like you're in more than just a mild post-holiday slump, you should talk to your doctor.)
In short, you have prepared and expected the Christmas holiday. If you feel a little letdown afterwards, this is normal. It could be a bit psychological or even chemical, but it is temporary in most cases and soon you will feel your old self again.
Happy Post Holidays everyone and a Happy, Happy New Year!
Black, Rosemary. "The party's over: Post-election letdown all too common - even if your side won - NY Daily News." Daily News America - Breaking national news, video, and photos - Homepage - NY Daily News. N.p., 8 Nov. 2008. Web. 23 Dec. 2012. <http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/party-post-election-letdown-common-side-won-article-1.335861>.
Brown, Shari, and Kathy Grannis. "National Retail Federation - Shoppers to Remain Conservative With Holiday Gift Budgets This Year, According to NRF." National Retail Federation - . N.p., 17 Oct. 2012. Web. 23 Dec. 2012. <http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&op=viewlive&sp_id=1438>.
Meyer, Lyndsay. "Dealing with postrace letdown - espnW." ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Sports. N.p., 15 Apr. 2011. Web. 23 Dec. 2012. <http://espn.go.com/espnw/features-profiles/6848437/dealing-postrace-letdown>.
Pearson, Catherine . "Got The Post-Holiday Blues? Here's How To Beat 'Em." Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. N.p., 3 Jan. 2012. Web. 23 Dec. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/post-holidays_n_1178443.html>.
"Solomon's "Opponent Process" Theory | in Chapter 14: Frontiers | from Psychology: An Introduction by Russ Dewey." Table of Contents for Psychology: An Introduction by Russ Dewey. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Dec. 2012. <http://www.intropsych.com/ch14_frontiers/solomons_opponent_process_theory.html>.
Stone, Katherine. "Post Partum Progress." How Many Women Get Postpartum Depression? The Statistics on PPD. N.p., 8 Oct. 2010. Web. 23 Dec. 2012. <www.postpartumprogress.com/how-many-women-get-postpartum-depression-the-statistics-on-ppd>.
Whitbourne, Susan Krauss, and Ph.D.. "What a Let-Down! | Psychology Today." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. N.p., 17 July 2011. Web. 23 Dec. 2012. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/greaseless/201107/what-let-down>.
Whitbourne, Susan Krauss, and Ph.D.. "Wedding Bell Blues: Dealing with Post-Wedding Depression | Psychology Today." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. N.p., 26 July 2012. Web. 23 Dec. 2012. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/between-you-and-me/201207/wedding-bell-blues-dealing-post-wedding-depression>.
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