Winter Blahs?  Depressed?

Tips For Post Holiday Blues


Post Christmas or Hanukkah Blues, January blah, winter doldrums.  Whatever you call it, it begins after the holiday season when the weather is cold and days are shorter; it ends before spring.

Post Holiday Blues (PHB) is an expectation condition, not to be confused with the neurological condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  It originates from one of several situations:

  • High expectations for the holiday that don’t materialize

            Paula says, “Every year I look forward to our family’s get-together, telling myself Dad won’t get drunk this year and ruin everything.  I create this fantasy, and then I am crushed when it doesn’t come true.”

  • No expectations for the holiday, but still disappointed

Tom says, “I hate Christmas.  It’s my wife’s tradition to spend the day with her parents. Married ten years, ten Christmases, and I still feel left out.  Even though I start with absolutely no expectations to enjoy the day, I’m continue to be surprised at how disappointed I am afterwards.”

  • Let down after a wonderful holiday

            John says, “I love getting together with my family.  It’s like a warm and loving injection. Yet, for about a week or two afterwards, I get depressed.  It’s taken me years to see the connection:   a let-down after that wonderful sense of belonging.”

  • Let down after the party is over

            Martha says, “I spend six weeks planning, shopping, baking, and decorating. Then everyone comes, has a great time, and goes home.  I wash the dishes, store the decorations, and it’s all over.  Such a let down.”

Whether or not you enjoyed your holiday, it’s over, and now there’s a lull.  You feel cranky, blah, depressed, or just plain moody.  PHB, especially if you don’t like winter, is a reaction to that lull.  There are things you can do though to lessen the effects of PHB.  By knowing the blues (or blahs) are coming, you can take preventive steps.  Here are some suggestions that may spark some of your own.

If you’ve had a wonderful holiday, you can counter the let-down by finding ways to extend that feeling of belonging and connection.  You might start a mid-year reunion with your family or arrange monthly get-togethers or telephone-get-togethers. Or, you might capture the special or funny moments in a scrapbook.  (Texting and emailing may not have the same warm effect as when you are together in person or hear each other’s voices.)

If you’ve had a disappointing (or miserable) holiday, you might:

  • Get involved in something you’ve been putting off, like building a shed or making new curtains
  • Start something new, like volunteering at the animal shelter or getting active in your neighborhood
  • Plan your next vacation now, when you need to be thinking about a pleasant future rather than brooding over an unpleasant past.


PHB Rescue Plan


If you can’t pull yourself from your blues, you may first need a PHB Rescue Plan.  For it to work, though, you must follow these guidelines.


  1. Give yourself permission to be blue rather than tell yourself to shake out of it.
  2. Set aside 10 minutes when you can be in the dumps, mope around, and feel sorry for yourself. You may be grumpy or weepy, so warn others to stay away during these few minutes.  When you feel blue at other moments, tell yourself to wait until your next 10 minute period.  Schedule as many periods each day as needed.
  3. Have something planned for the end of your 10 minute period that will pull you into a different frame of mind.  It might be preparing dinner, calling your best friend, watching an engaging television show, or even leaving for work.  Planning what comes right after your moping will make it easier to shift out of that mood.


Some people fear if they give into the blahs, they will feel worse. Not true, not if you know you have a limited time and then you must get on with your everyday life.  This Rescue Plan teaches your body to respect the limits you set for yourself, so you can have your emotions but be in control of them.

(This same plan can be used for other emotional situations, whether it be grieving a death or not getting an anticipated award.)

The Rescue Plan should help, but if by mid-February, if you are still down, you might want to consult a therapist.  Sometimes the seasonal PHB passes, but in its wake it sets off other feelings which extend the blues.

If you have questions or comments or want more information, contact me at:

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis

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