Q: Sometimes I feel down after the holidays. Is that normal?
A: It sounds like youre suffering from postholiday slump. And, hey, this is perfectly normal. When the sparkly party dresses get packed away and “Its the most wonderful time…” stops blaring in stores everywhere, it can be easy to feel bummed out. Much like planning a wedding, it can be natural to feel a bit let down afterward.
Rather than view the coming months as a holding pattern until spring, David Baron, professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry at Temple University, suggests you plan fun activities that keep you connected with your social networks. Ask friends to e-mail you their most fabulous photos from your New Years Eve party and host an informal, mid-January potluck, during which you play a slide show. Or arrange a February ski trip. “Plan something you can look forward to instead of just trying to survive the winter doldrums,” Baron says.
If this sadness has sprung up before, look back and try to ID the cause. Are you overeating or overspending and then dealing with the consequences in the New Year? Do your resolutions always crash? Being prepared and having a sense of control can be empowering and protective, Baron says.
Of course, if your slump turns into something more serious—if you start to experience feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, for instance—see your physician to rule out a more serious psychological condition like depression.
Q: My father died two years ago, and now the holidays are always hard. How can I get through this time of year?
A: “When someone we love dies, we miss them daily,” says Terese Vorsheck, director of Highmark Caring Place, a grieving center in Pennsylvania. But were even sadder around the holidays when were also reminiscing about the person, so beforehand discuss with your family what traditions you want to keep or change and how you want to include the family member who is gone. Allowing memories to be shared in a natural way keeps the person who died a part of these special days and can be comforting as long as you dont dwell upon them. As the holiday arrives, be gentle with yourself, Vorsheck says. “If you just cant do it, whatever it is—baking cookies, visiting friends, decorating your house—dont.” Because youve talked about your feelings, you wont feel as if you have to suppress your emotions for fear of dampening the holiday spirit. As time passes, she adds, youll find you can be sad and still enjoy these days.