Wichita State News
Photo: Joe Kleinsasser
The holiday season is a euphoric time that is over quickly. WSU psychologist Greg Buell says that often leads to a post-holiday letdown.

PODCAST: Forecast calls for a post-holiday letdown

Thursday, December 17, 2009

This WSU Newsline Podcast is available at http://www.wichita.edu/newslinepodcast. See the transcript below:

You’re listening to the podcast edition of the Wichita State University audio newsline. Learn more about WSU — the home of Thinkers, Doers, Movers and Shockers — on the Web at wichita.edu.

The holiday season is similar to taking a great vacation — it's a euphoric time that is all too fleeting. When you see the glitz and glamour of decorations, listen to holiday music and look at the elaborate store window displays, it seems like the world turns into one big amusement park. No wonder expectations are so high for the holidays, as Wichita State University psychologist Greg Buell explains.

Buell: "Part of the buildup is family rituals, customs, things that we do, like decorating, special foods, special gatherings. Holidays are awesome."

Of course, what goes up — our emotional high — must come down, and Buell says the end result is frequently a post-holiday letdown.

Buell: "I think the best way to explain a letdown around the holidays is a natural buildup of expectations. Occasionally they get out of line. We set them too high and so there's a natural dropoff."

"Another possible explanation for the letdown is that we do have to pay the piper. Some of us make choices as we head into the holiday season in terms of perhaps overdoing it; be it food, be it money, or in other ways we get too extravagant."

Buell says our holiday festivities don't always go exactly as planned.

Buell: "Too often, the holiday season didn't quite go the way our Norman Rockwell imagination had constructed it. Everything didn't come off perfectly."

According to Buell, the letdown after the holidays is not unlike the grief process.

Buell: "In a way, it's not unlike grief. Reality sets in. There's the loss of the process of getting ready, but then it's back to the grind, back to work or back to school."

And Buell says that even in the best of circumstances, a post-holiday letdown is to be expected.

Buell: "You know, even if things came off perfectly, there is a drop off — the process of getting ready, the buildup, the fun of being joyful and planning to have a good time with others. It's hard to let go of that."

Buell says the best way to avoid a big letdown is to lower expectations.

Buell: "A special way to avoid a big letdown would be to moderate expectations. If you can help folks get realistic and remember the meaning of the gathering and the celebration season, that helps."

During the holiday season, people seem a little more generous with their time, money and compliments. With all of that good cheer and goodwill, who wouldn't be sad to see the holidays end?

Karen Fusco, co-founder of SilkBow.com, says one of the most effective ways to beat a mild case of depression is through exercise. When you are physically active, your body releases endorphins that help you to feel a sort of "high." Regular exercise helps to alter the chemicals in your brain which gives you a greater sense of well-being.

Thanks for listening. Until next time, this is Joe Kleinsasser for Wichita State University.

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Created on Thursday, December 17, 2009; Last modified on Friday, December 18, 2009