By Melodie Veldhuizen
The fun-in-the-sun holiday is over and the new year with all its challenges lie heavily on your shoulders. You are inexplicably depressed. This is a common occurrence and is known as the contrast effect, where the brain has to adjust between to radically diverse experiences, namely a holiday and the normal post-holiday routine.
What causes post-holiday depression?
- During the holidays, especially during our summer holidays with its many festive days, we are busy with preparations for Christmas and many social activities. When it is over, we are left with a feeling of loneliness, boredom and nostalgia.
- We spend time with our loved ones and afterwards have mixed feelings about it. In some cases we are disappointed, sad or angry about the way some of them treated us. Or the time together brought so much joy that the parting at the end of the holiday left a huge gap and we miss them greatly.
- Perhaps the holiday in many ways did not meet your expectations. You may possibly be disappointed because things did not go exactly according to plan, or everyone did not get on so well with one another.
- Family gatherings cause longing for loved ones who could not enjoy the time with us due to death, divorce or because they live far away, or even because of a family feud.
- If you travelled around a lot during the holiday and did not really rest, excessive tiredness can lead to depression, despite of how pleasant it might have been.
- You feel depressed because you have to go back to work or to the daily grind of domestic chores.
- You miss the coming and going of the younger children who are going back to school and your student children who are studying in another city and have departed once again.
- You went overboard during the holiday with wrong eating and drinking habits and no exercise. Your scale and tight-fitting clothes leave you feeling guilty and depressed, with an additional post-holiday challenge, namely to lose weight.
How to overcome the depression.
Post-holiday depression will usually pass and you can make a concerted effort to overcome it.
- Focus on the positive things about the holiday and what you enjoyed. Try to continue with it after the holiday. If you enjoyed swimming with your children, do it regularly. If you enjoyed hanging out around the barbeque fires, do it more often at home together with the people whose company you enjoy.
- Avoid conversations where the negative of the holiday is continuously brought up and try not to think about it.
- Spend more time outdoors – it helps combat depression.
- Weekly plan at least one pleasant thing which you can look forward to amidst all the daily obligations. Make bookings for musical performances or concerts in your vicinity. Plan taking in a movie, or other family outings such as a picnic in the botanical gardens. Revive your exercise programme that you neglected during the holiday. And if you’ve never exercised, now is a good time to start. Exercise also helps to let those excessive holiday kilo’s melt away and to combat depression.
- Resume healthy eating and sleeping habits and use less alcohol than during the holiday.
- Try seeing the family and friends whose company and presence you enjoyed during the holiday, more often. For example, invite them for a (long) weekend visit. Or at least stay in contact with everyone.
- Start planning your next holiday, even if it’s a year or more ahead. Decide how you would like to change it from the previous one. Perhaps with other family members or friends, or just you, your wife and kids. Possibly at an inland holiday resort instead of the sea. Eliminate the things and people who might possible have caused your post-holiday depression.
- Make peace with the family members or friends who rubbed you up the wrong way during the holiday. Age-old family feuds and unresolved conflict can lead to long-lasting depression.
- Compile a scrapbook, photo-album, travel diary or journal of holiday photos, events, anecdotes and activities. In this way you relive the positive aspects of the holiday and create a concrete memory of a wonderful time. Preserve it for your children or grandchildren who may be too young to be able to recall it later.
- Make the best of being back at work, even if you are dreading it. Think about it this way – you have to work to save for your next holiday.
Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/life-without-anxiety/201401/the-holidays-are-over-why-am-i-so-blue
Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-manage-post-holiday-depression/