Updated: Jan 7
By Beth Tyson, MA Psychotherapist & Trauma Consultant
Have you heard of the Post-Holiday Blues (PHB’s)?
The week or two following the holiday season is the most depressing time of the year for many people.
From Halloween to December 25th I ride a wave of nostalgia, excitement, activities, gatherings, and joy and then on the 26th that wave crashes into the shore line and my underlying grief rises to the surface.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) this experience has name. It's called the “post-holiday blues," or PHBs for short.
From a psychological standpoint it makes sense to me. For some people the drama of the holiday season causes a response similar to a "high," and when the fun of the season ends abruptly our brain/body is starved of all those feel good hormones, creating a "crash."
The PHB’s can effect children and adults and can include symptoms such as:
Feeling an impending sense of doom (anxiety)
Lack of motivation
Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Ruminating on the past or the future
Flare-ups of previous mental health problems
The Post-Holiday Blues are usually temporary, but they need to be taken seriously because short-term mental health challenges can lead to more significant problems if left unaddressed. People who have have a history of trauma and/or loss are especially at risk.
A big part of coping with the PHB’s is knowing that you’re not alone in your feelings.
Check-in with your children and teens over the next few weeks to see if they are feeling down and offer some relief in the following ways:
Let them know these feelings are usually temporary
Make some small plans to look forward to in January
Point out the fact that in nature winter is a time of turning inward (like bears who hibernate)
Winter is the only time of year where life naturally slows down. This is an opportunity to do less. To listen to our inner voice. Reflect on what has worked and didn't work over the past year, and save energy for more lively times of year. In other words, it's common to feel a little down this time of year, but we can develop skills to use the time productively and not fall into a dark place emotionally.
How am I coping with the Post-Holiday Blues?
I am spending this time researching my ancestors and learning about the past, which is providing me with a deeper understanding of who I am. I already discovered some interesting facts that help me make sense of my upbringing and family life. My ancestors experienced tremendous adversity and trauma, which offers me a holistic understanding of my struggles with anxiety and panic attacks.
I am also reflecting on our life over the last year in my journal, and I think these prompts could be helpful to your family too.
Journal Prompts to Reflect on 2022:
What did we do last winter as a family that helped us get through?
How can we embrace the winter months this year?
What didn't work for us last year?
Where do we need to slow down? What feels like “too much?”
How can we use Winter to prepare for Spring?
What surprised us in the last year?
What challenges did we overcome?
What do we own that no longer brings us joy?
What things in our life need to be purged?
What could we bring into our life to make it more meaningful?
"Reflecting on the past helps you plan for the future while finding purpose in the present."
Remember, if your feeling down over the next few weeks, you’re not alone. It is likely temporary, but contact a licensed mental health professional or your health care provider if your sadness, irritability, and/or anxiety is interfering with everyday life.
The U.S. mental health crisis hotline is available 24/7 by texting or dialing 988. This hotline is like 911 for mental health problems. They can guide you towards help.
I wish you all a Hopeful New Year because being “happy” isn’t always realistic.
If you would like to learn more about childhood trauma and how to improve the emotional well-being of children and families, please join us in my Facebook group, Emotiminds. It's a virtual space to ask questions, and find resources to help families and organizations cope with trauma.
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