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Mental Health Facts & Links

Mental health problems are very common. Did you know?

One in five American adults experienced a mental health issue.

One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression.

One in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

 

What’s Behind The Post-Holiday Funk & How To Snap Out Of It

Ever wonder why it's so hard to get back into the swing after the holidays? Post-holiday blues are a thing. Here's how to deal.

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It’s the first full week of January, which means it’s back to reality and business as usual. For some, it’s a major relief. Even with all its good tidings and cheer, it’s a financially, physically, and emotionally demanding time of year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64 percent of people report being affected by holiday depression, and it’s most often triggered by financial, emotional, and physical stress of the season. But for others, coming down from the high after the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ (and the inevitable return to work) can bring on a bout of the post-holiday blues too.

What Exactly Are Post-Holiday Blues?

Also known as post-vacation syndrome, stress, or depression, this slump can hit hard after a period of intense emotion and stress. Post-holiday blues share many of the same characteristic symptoms of an anxiety or mood disorder: insomnia, low-energy, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and anxiousness. But unlike clinical depression, the distress is short-lived rather than long-term. Though much greater attention is often given to depression that occurs during the holidays, the condition isn’t all that uncommon. So, what’s responsible for this glaring lack of post-holiday glow?

What Causes Post-Holiday Blues?

There’s relatively little research on the subject, but consensus among experts is that the adrenaline comedown is the main culprit. Princeton, NJ-based clinical psychologist Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore suggests that the abrupt withdrawal of stress hormones after a major event, be it a wedding, an important deadline, or the holidays, can have a profound impact on our biological and psychological well-being.

But that’s only one part of the equation. The contrast effect, a form of cognitive bias where perception of differences is enhanced or diminished as a result of exposure to something with similar characteristics, but different key qualities, is also at play. It’s essentially the brain’s way of trying to restore order while adjusting between markedly different experiences. And, half of the month of December is basically one big departure from your normal routine.

Why Do We Feel It Post-Holidays?

Unless you have a three-week vacation in August or some other big diversion during the year, the holidays may be the only time regular life is interrupted. Even if your holidays weren’t so merry and bright, the brain exaggerates the realities of day-to-day life, making the return to the mundane seem disproportionately more anxiety-inducing and depressing than it actually is.

Our Brain is Tricking Us

According to Dr. Melissa Weinberg, a research consultant and psychologist specializing in well-being and performance psychology, it’s a sign of healthy psychological functioning. “It’s just one of a series of illusions our brain fools us into believing, in the same way we think bad things are more likely to happen to others than they are to us. Somewhat ironically, the capacity to fool ourselves every single day is an indication of good mental and psychological functioning,” Weinberg explains in The New Daily.

“So, whether we did enjoy our holiday, and whether we’d rather be on vacation than back at work, our brain is wired to make us believe that we did, or that we would. In doing so, we pay the emotional cost for a well-enjoyed break, and we experience a comedown toward our baseline of well-being.” In other words, you pay the same emotional toll for a crappy vacation as you do for an amazing one.

We’re Emotionally Exhausted

The considerable weight of navigating difficult situations and relationships and keeping your cool during the holiday events is another possible factor in post-holiday depression.

According to psychiatrist and author of “Thriving as an Empath,’ Dr. Judith Orloff, putting up a false front and feigning happiness can be incredibly draining.” This idea is shared by psychotherapist Dr. Richard O’Connor, who has a theory that we “arm” ourselves during the holiday period as a coping mechanism to deal with stress and difficult emotions and situations

Diet Plays A Role Too

The sugar and alcohol-fueled diets many of us thrive (or rather survive) on during the holiday period could also be a culprit. Alcohol is a widely recognized depressant and research has also linked junk food to depression. Unsurprisingly, after a near-month long period of overindulgence, we might not be feeling our best.

How To Snap Out Of The Funk

Working yourself out of a post-holiday funk requires putting some extra emphasis on the basics of physical and mental well-being and adjusting expectations:

  • Take care of yourself. Quality sleep, regular exercise, and a nutrient-dense diet—these healthy lifestyle cornerstones are recommended by experts to boost mood and manage depression symptoms. Between late-night festivities, sugary snacks and long to-do lists, these practices often fall to the wayside during the holiday season. Re-establishing them as a regular and non-negotiable fixture in your routine is essential for getting back on track if you’re struggling emotionally.
  • Schedule time for fun. Social interaction is a critical component of enhanced well-being. Now that the holiday parties have petered out, an empty calendar might feel a bit depressing. Filling up your planner with activities you enjoy will give you something to look forward to and help keep contrast effect at bay. It’s easy to withdraw when you’re feeling down. Reaching out to and getting face time in with friends and other people you care about—even when you don’t feel like it—can also provide a much-needed boost.
  • Be patient and go easy on yourself. Post-holiday blues won’t stick around forever. In the meantime, cut yourself some slack. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling the way you do and take the time you need to find your footing. If symptoms do persist, consider consulting a specialist.

The following at-home screening tools are provided for your convenience. Please keep in mind that these tools are not to be used as a diagnostic instrument. Diagnosis of mental health disorders can only be determined through a clinical assessment performed by a licensed mental health professional.  Please contact our office at (307) 358-2846 to schedule an appointment.

Depression screening

https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools/depression

https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/screenings/screening-depression

Anxiety screening

https://adaa.org/screening-generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad

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Pandemics can be stressful

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.
 
 
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Take care of your mental health

You may experience increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions.

Get immediate help in a crisis

Find a health care provider or treatment for substance use disorder and mental health

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations

How you respond to stress during the COVID-19 pandemic can depend on your background, your social support from family or friends, your financial situation, your health and emotional background, the community you live in, and many other factors. The changes that can happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways we try to contain the spread of the virus can affect anyone.

People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include:

Take care of yourself and your community

Taking care of your friends and your family can be a stress reliever, but it should be balanced with care for yourself. Helping others cope with their stress, such as by providing social support, can also make your community stronger. During times of increased social distancing, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health. Phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel socially connected, less lonely, or isolated.

Healthy ways to cope with stress

  • Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19. Contact a health professional before you start any self-treatment for COVID-19.
  • Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
  • Take care of your emotional health. Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.

 

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