Depression affects millions of Americans every year, but none more so than in the immediacy following the holiday season. Feeling depressed and let down after the holidays come to an end is so common in our society that it has its own nickname – the post-holiday blues.
A substantial number of people experience these post-holiday blues, only to shake them off after a brief period of time by focusing on other things. Things aren’t quite so simple for the recovering addict. The depression that can sink into the brain of the former user, as a result of “the big let down”, can be devastating and enough to push them over the edge into substance abuse again. We are going to examine the different causes of the post-holiday blues, as well as an effective strategy to combat them.
What Causes the Post-Holidays Blues?
For many people, the explanation is as simple as the day or the events not meeting their expectations. Unfulfilled expectations can lead to disappointment, which can easily turn into depression. The holidays are also that time of year when we’re all guilty of having unreasonable expectations. There’s nothing malicious about it. There’s tons of pressure that we all feel and experience and want more than anything else for everything to be perfect. The party, the dinner, the gift-giving, the family mingling, everything. Because deep in our subconscious, many of us honestly think that if everything is perfect this one time, walls are going to be let down, boundaries broken, relationships strengthened and maybe that perfection can transcend the rest of our lives.
Recognizing Unreasonable Expectations
When you put this much pressure on yourself and the holidays in general, how could you not experience sadness and symptoms of depression when things don’t turn out the way you imagined. Lowering one’s expectations can have a negative connotation in our society, but lowering expectations to achieve ones that are in reason is anything but negative. It can actually help you relax and even possibly get rid of your post-holiday blues altogether! But how do we actually recognize which of our expectations are unreasonable and cause us to feel lousy and push us towards disappointment?
That question can be a little tricky and obviously difficult to achieve at first, otherwise more of us wouldn’t be in this chronic cycle of post-holiday depression. For example, if your emotionally unavailable father has never been one to offer up affections freely, saving up money for six months to buy him a trip somewhere is probably not going to bring about that touching “I love you and appreciate you” moment you’ve been dreaming about since you were a child. If you’ve always secretly longed for your family to stand up and cheer when serving their holiday meal that you spent 2 full days preparing, going the extra mile of making personalized place settings is not going to be the thing that makes that happen for you this year either. If your brother or sister drinks too much and picks an unnecessary fight with someone in the family every year, it’s probably going to happen again this year. Why allow yourself to fall into a depression over things that you have zero control over?
Warding Off Depression Before it Starts
The simplest method of protecting yourself and breaking the cycle is being reflective and trying to identify what disappoints you year after year. Is it the gift-giving and receiving? Is it the family dynamics? Is it the table manners? Even if your expectations seem reasonable to you like the kids not getting in an argument at the holiday dinner table, if that’s what happens year after year, they are then by definition too high and you will continue to be disappointed by them until you come to terms with that. Identifying the patterns and locating the causes or triggers of your depression can empower you to let them go. Once you allow yourself to stop expecting the perfect holiday, you free yourself to actually enjoy the day and the time spent with loved ones, good and bad.
Destination Hope is a premier addiction treatment facility in Florida. Depression is a leading cause for substance abuse as well as relapse. If you’re feeling the pressures and stresses, after this holiday season, get in touch with us today as we want to help in any way we can.