Updated: Dec 16, 2020
With the arrival of one festival after the other, the second half of every year stands special for Indians. The West brightens up for the holiday season with Thanksgiving and Christmas and the world prepares to mark the New Year’s Eve. One might expect the glitter and glam of these occasions to brighten up their moods, wash the sorrows away and bring cheer. But do these times really do good by all of us? If you feel low, stressed, lonely, tired, or agitated even, during or right after a festival or holiday, you are not alone.
Commonly referred to as festival or holiday blues, evidence suggests that numerous people experience this phenomenon every year during festivals or holidays. Experiences also include feelings of disappointment, sadness, fatigue, or frustration.
In their 2011 review, researchers Randy Sansone and Lori Sansone found an increase in worsening of mood and alcohol-related fatalities during the Christmas holiday season. While the number of patients visiting mental health facilities dropped during the holiday season, they spiked subsequently, according to reports.
Similarly, psychiatrists and psychologists in India have reported a surge in the number of individuals consulting them after festivals, particularly Diwali. Seen more prominently in the Northern metropolitan cities of India, those with the ‘Post-Festival Withdrawal Syndrome’ or PFWS seem to show an immense disappointment, depression, and a sense of loss.
What Goes On?
The popular notions consider festivals and holidays as rescuers of mundane routines; an opportunity to spend time with family and friends over delightful meals and celebrations, let go of the tedium and stress, take little getaways and the likes. So, why exactly do these blues hit some of us amid cheer?
Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Maud Purcell writes that a disparity between how one actually feels and what one thinks one is supposed to feel can give rise to guilt and confusion. Memories of the previous holidays, grieving the loss of a loved one, loneliness and financial distresses could be some of the other causes, she writes. Psychologist Dr Eileen Kennedy-Moore suggests to PsyCom that an abrupt withdrawal of stress hormones after major events, such as weddings, important deadlines, festivals or holidays, to be a cause of this series of feelings.
The cognitive or thought-based biases could also be responsible. The Sansones cite researcher Peretti attributing this phenomenon largely to the individual’s belief in the myth that everyone else is having a good time and engaged in loving family relationships.
Lifestyle choices, such as eating, drinking and smoking, that some may rely on to lift their mood, could trigger a decline instead, suggests psychologist Purvi Shah. Changes in quality sleep patterns amid the holiday or festival thrill could warrant an unpleasant change.
Beating the Blues
Flow Gently: Often in excitement, we build on our expectations and excitement, so much so that by the time the moment is here, it all falls flat or fades away. Instead, we can take it steadily, plan realistically and be open to possibilities. It is alright for a holiday or festival to not be perfect.
Don’t Trade Health: The connection between the body and the brain has been emphasized enough. One impacts the other at the snap of a finger. Festivals and holidays can be enjoyed without hampering your health too. Eat, sleep and drink healthy, and yes, keep away from substances too.
Take Breaks: Fatigue can set in by excessive scrolling of the screen, texting, calling or talking. Too much of anything can be tiresome. Make sure you take enough breaks.
Ask for Help: To each their own - some blues can settle down, while some can be felt for longer and turn overwhelming. If so, consult a mental health professional. Help is available.
So, this holiday season, make your mental health a priority!
2009. Holiday Blues That Linger Could be Warning Signs of Depression. APA. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2009/12/holiday-blues
Sansone, Randy & Sansone, Lori. (2011). The Christmas Effect on Psychopathology. Innovations in clinical neuroscience. 8. 10-13.
Bhowmick, B. (2016). Are You Suffering from Post-Festival Withdrawal Syndrome? The Times of India. Retrieved From: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/life-n-style/are-you-suffering-from-post-festival-withdrawal-syndrome/
Sharma K. and Keshavan S. (2007). Feeling Depressed After Diwali? Daily News and Analysis (DNA). Retrieved From https://www.dnaindia.com/entertainment/report-feeling-depressed-after-diwali-1132740
Purcell Maud. (2020). Beating the Holiday Blues. Psych Central. Retrieved From: https://psychcentral.com/lib/beating-the-holiday-blues/
McCarthy Libby. What’s Behind The Post-Holiday Funk & How To Snap Out Of It. PsyCom.
Retrieved From: https://www.psycom.net/post-holiday-depression
Jain Shikha. (2019). Adieu Holiday Blues. Free Press Journal (FPJ). Retrieved From: https://www.freepressjournal.in/health/adieu-holiday-blues