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After the Celebration: What Do You Do With Post-Event Blues?

Day-after blues are normal. Overcoming them is easier than you might think.

Key points

  • When things get quiet again, it's normal to feel some sadness, loneliness, and disappointment the day after a celebration.
  • After all the buildup and all the excitement, the big day has come and gone. People may be disappointed with how it went or sad that it's over.
  • Looking forward to or planning the next event, maybe differently, can also help.

Another quiet holiday has come and gone. My husband and I celebrated with another couple, old friends, whose children, like ours, were spending this holiday with their in-laws. It was lovely and warm and filled with love. But all day, I found myself returning to memories of holidays past, which had been far busier, with more people, more action, and more open celebration.

What I remembered more than anything was the day after – when things were quiet again, and I felt a surprising sense of sadness, loneliness, and disappointment. This feeling seemed to follow no matter how happy the festivities had been, how well the family behaved, or how badly things had gone. It was easy to understand my unhappiness if the day had gone badly, but as I came to understand, even wonderful celebrations can lead to a letdown when they’re over.

123rf stock image #54598042 andreypopov
Source: 123rf stock image #54598042 andreypopov

Maybe that’s part of the problem. After all of the buildup, hype, and excitement, the big day has come – and gone. It’s over. Whether it was your first Thanksgiving with the whole family after nearly two years of COVID lockdown, a wedding you’ve been planning for a year, a party for a big birthday, a big presentation, or a work-related honor, it’s over. Whether it was wonderful, awful, better than you had imagined, or more terrible than you could have expected, it’s over.

Even if it was your wedding day or your 50th birthday, you feel like it didn’t actually change your life all that much. Today life has gotten back to normal. You don’t feel moved, happy, or exultant. What you feel is a little empty, a little blue, or a little letdown. Or maybe even more than a little of all of those things. Maybe you really didn’t expect something earth-shattering, of course, but you didn’t expect to be disappointed, either.

But don’t worry. You’re not alone in feeling any of this. Disappointment, letdown, and even a little anger at having been caught up in all of the pre-celebration excitement are completely normal reactions. When something special happens, it gets the endorphins flowing through our bodies. We feel a natural sense of exhilaration in reaction to the flow of hormones and chemicals that our bodies produce in these moments. The “high” feeling colors our expectations. And then reality happens. The endorphins and other feel-good chemicals stop surging through our bodies, the high wears off, and we start to feel a physical letdown as well as a psychological one.

Actors have dubbed this feeling “post-performance depression” because it inevitably follows the fun and excitement of working on and giving a performance. There’s a physiological part to all of this enthusiasm, too. The body releases not only stress hormones but also neurotransmitters including endorphins related to an improved mood and state of mind.

When the event is over, the letdown is both psychological and physical. It can feel like just moments after it started, it was over. Your body immediately stopped producing all of those delicious chemicals that bathed your brain in good feelings, leaving you to let down, disappointed, and blue. Maybe you start to pick apart all of the things that went wrong. It’s part of the let-down. So now what do you do?

Here are four ideas for dealing with day after blues:

  1. Don’t take the feelings or your negative thoughts literally. What you are feeling is completely normal. It does not mean that you did something wrong, that you are in the wrong job, or that you have chosen the wrong person to marry! It’s simply that the moment is over, and your body and your psyche are readjusting to the shift in the chemicals that affect your mood.
  2. Appreciate what you did. Take stock, realistically evaluate what happened, and enjoy the pleasures of the experience. Did you have a good time? Did you learn anything? Did you reconnect with a loved one or make a new friend?
  3. Acknowledge the negative realistically. Few things live up to our fantasies because our fantasies seldom include the problems of every experience. Before my wedding day, my sister-in-law told me to prepare for something really unpleasant to mar the day. “It’s inevitable,” she told me. “And it’ll be big. Like you will have forgotten to invite your best friend, or you left your shoes in the taxi and have nothing to wear with your wedding gown.” But when it happens, she said, take it in, and let it go. “There’s the bad thing,” she said to tell me. “Now I can enjoy the good stuff.”
  4. Move on. Make plans for future celebrations, adventures, achievements, and activities. Maybe you’ll do some research on family dynamics. Maybe you’ll start doing taking a cooking class so you can make a better meal next time. Maybe you’ll get together with your new friend for coffee or renew your relationship with that cousin who made you laugh all through the dinner. Maybe you’ll start to think about your next vacation.

The most important thing is to recognize it for what it was, take whatever was good, thought-provoking, or lesson-worthy, and then leave it alone. And start thinking about something else that will to power up those endorphins.

More from F. Diane Barth L.C.S.W.
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More from F. Diane Barth L.C.S.W.
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