Over the last 18 years as a therapist, I have observed that after the festive season, there is a sudden increase in the number of new clients reaching out for therapy as well as current clients presenting concerns that have been overwhelming them. There is a surge particularly after Diwali, Christmas and as soon as the New Year begins. This is a trend that has remained consistent over the years, for both men and women across age groups.
There is a certain kind of fatigue, anxiety and restlessness that clients talk about in the week after Diwali particularly. For a lot of clients who struggle with eating conditions and their relationship with food, the festive season can be daunting. Whether it’s the rich, heavy food served at parties/family get-togethers or the reality that they must eat in front of others, both can evoke anxiety. A 28-year-old client told me: “I hate looking at myself anyway and I don’t feel comfortable with my body. With Diwali, there is an extra pressure to dress up. Wearing Indian clothes, getting pictures done and all the fried food, makes me feel nauseous and I just want to disappear.”
A combination of rich, oily food, along with alcohol and then late nights, often adds to the fatigue and lethargy for a lot of people. While the holiday is supposed to be a period of rest and celebration, it’s common for clients to comment that they need a couple of days to recover from the good time they have had. Even if the celebrations were filled with festive cheer, it still can be overwhelming. We need to remember that all of us are capable of being overwhelmed by social events, get-togethers that we see as being positive and meaningful. This may reflect in the form of social fatigue, which is very common post the holiday season, where clients feel the need to lie low and not meet anyone for the next few days. It’s just that we don’t often talk about it.
If you are someone who identifies as an introvert, the festive season can be quite demanding, with late-night dinners, lunch plans that extend into the evening, and the consistent chatter. It leaves very little quiet time and space for people to recharge. Given that our exercise, eating times, sleep schedule and structure go for a toss, it’s common to feel off-centre and dysregulated for some time. The good thing is that slowly easing back into a familiar routine and engaging in self-care rituals that work for you will help you feel more regulated in your body and mind.
At their core, the holiday season and festivals also remind us of our grief. As a result, there is an emptiness and sadness which can surface and linger long after the festival. Another theme that is at the heart of all work I do post-Diwali is family dynamics, unmet expectations, feelings of hurt, disappointment and even exclusion from conversations and family events. A lot of clients experience loneliness even when they are amidst family and this, in turn, can sometimes evoke fears and anxieties that have been festering for a long time.
Over the last few years, clients have also been speaking of the jealousy and envy which get triggered thanks to social media. This spiral can immediately add to the anxiety and make people feel terrible even after a good celebration.
If you identify with any of these concerns, it would be a good idea to acknowledge them and not beat yourself up over it. Ask yourself, what can your self-care and self-soothing routine look like post- Diwali?
Secondly, reach out to your mental health professional, a friend, or a family member you can talk to openly about your anxiety and feelings. Most importantly, remember that if you can learn to work with this awareness, you can build guard rails and rituals that can safeguard you the next time around.
Sonali Gupta is a Mumbai-based clinical psychologist. She is the author of the book Anxiety: Overcome It And Live Without Fear and has a YouTube channel, Mental Health With Sonali.