Contracting a case of the blues is fairly common as the holiday magic wanes and you and your family shift back into your daily routines. We all miss the lights and festivities, but if your sense of loss lingers too long, it may be a sign of a deeper issue.
I really love the holiday season, and when I wake up on New Year’s Day, I feel a little sad. The post-holiday letdown makes me think about snowy weather: When the snow first falls, it is sparkling, clean, and evokes bright-eyed, smiling faces. But by the next day, it’s dirty and we are all fed up with it! The post-holidays are just like day-old snow. Overnight, the twinkling lights are gone from homes and stores, the parties are over, grumpy people are returning unwanted gifts, and it’s back to school and work.
I know I’m not alone. Many people feel a bit empty after the holidays. We miss the celebrations, giftwrap, and that two-month-long excuse to cheat on our diets. The fun is over. In fact, even children may experience a post-holiday letdown. These feelings are normal and expected. However, if they linger, or if they feel worse than just a tiny bump in the road, you may need to reach out for support. Post-holiday blues that stick around or get worse may be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder (a type of depression that typically occurs in winter) or some other type of depression or anxiety. It is important not to ignore these feelings—in yourself or your child—because they may get worse rather than better.
Here are five signs that post-holiday-blues may be something deeper.
1. Do you feel sad or have depressed feelings that linger, possibly including frequent crying, feelings of inadequacy, or a sense of hopelessness?
These feelings may be more difficult to recognize in a child because depressed kids can still look happy some of the time, and they are not often able to express their feelings.
2. Do you think about death or dying more than just once in a while or when triggered by a real-life event?
If you think about dying more than a few times a year, or if you have tried to kill yourself, get professional help right now—don’t wait! If your child has talked about dying or has told you that he thinks about killing himself, don’t assume that he wouldn’t act on it, or that it is simply attention-seeking behavior. Seek help immediately.
3. Do you feel much more tired than usual, despite getting adequate sleep?
Feeling like you are dragging through the day may be one indication of depression.
4. Do you struggle to stay motivated?
Or have difficulty accomplishing daily tasks because these feel overwhelming? For kids, this might include a drop-off in school performance.
5. Do you avoid social interactions or time with friends?
For depressed adults and kids, socializing can feel like a huge effort. However, the isolation further reinforces bad feelings, so sometimes it is important to push yourself or your child to be social. It might make you feel better.
It is very important to seek help for sad or depressed feelings that interfere with your life in a way that is more than just “a little bit of post-holiday-blues.” The right help will get you back to feeling like yourself—so that by the time the holidays roll around next year, you’ll be all geared up to start shopping and celebrating again!
Dr. Susan Bartell is a Long Island-based, nationally recognized child psychologist, speaker, and award-winning author. Her latest book is The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. Read more of Dr. Bartell’s advice at nymetroparents.com/bartell.