Every year, billions of Indians look forward to celebrating Diwali. The five-day long celebration is the grandest and possibly the most important festival in India. It's the time of the year where families come together, cleaning and decorating the house, preparing farsan, buying new clothes and crackers, and socialising. So when all the festivities come to an end after the fifth day, a pall of silence settles over the nation that was so lit up barely a week ago. A curious thing happens to some of us during this time. We return to our mundane, everyday lives and suddenly we realise that all the fun and gaiety of Diwali is replaced by banality of routine. This can be upsetting for many who feel a gripping sadness as soon as the festival is over. They have what is called post-festival depression.
What is post-festival depression?
Nagpur-based psychiatrist Dr Avinash Joshi says that the phenomenon is well-recognised and is seen all over the world. In the West, the time during and after Christmas is particularly hard for some people. "There is a sudden void that is felt when a grand festival like Diwali or Christmas is over," says Dr Joshi. "People ruminate over the event that they have enjoyed and have to suddenly face the reality that it is over. They return to the real world, which reminds them of their humdrum existence."
According to Dr Joshi, festivals like Diwali give the person a freedom from routine: a lot of fun, frolic and food, which naturally improves his mood. The happiness felt during the period can be comparable to a high. "As the law of nature goes, anything that goes up eventually comes down. For every high, there is a low. And that's what happens post-Diwali," says Dr Joshi. The person becomes extremely sad. He doesn't know what to do with his life, now that the fun times are over. "It is a form of Sunday-blues or the sadness one feels on a Sunday evening, knowing that one has to go to work the next day," he says.
Who is susceptible to post-festival depression?
Although it is one thing to be upset when Diwali is over, being depressed, helpless and irritable is another thing. That's why not everyone has post-festival depression. "People who exhibit an equanimous state of mind rarely face this problem," says Dr Joshi. Equanimous people are those who have a calm and composed mindset, who won't be excited or perturbed easily by any external stimuli. "It is associated with a higher level of cognitive functioning," states the doctor.
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Dr Joshi believes that the condition is seen in people who have a certain type of predisposition as far as their personalities are concerned. "People who have a cyclothymic tendency are more likely to experience sadness after festivals," reveals Dr Joshi. Cyclothymia is a type of chronic mood disorder in which the person alternates between a depressive and a hypomanic state. In the depressive stage, the person may undergo decision-making difficulties, concentration problems, poor memory, guilt, low self-esteem, pessimism, hopelessness and irritability. In the hypomanic stage, they'd be happy, optimistic, agitated, aggressive and hypervigilant. In short, they swing between lows of depression and highs of hypomania.
The ones with this tendency are most likely to experience a hypomanic stage during the festival time and a depressive phase when the celebrations are over. They need the jolt of the festivities to bring them out of their depressive stage. "They are dependent on external events to stimulate their mood. Once the excitement is over, they become low," Dr Joshi reveals.
What should you do?
If the person is born with a certain kind of predisposed personality, changing their mindset is not possible overnight. It could require psychiatric intervention in the form of medication and cognitive behaviour therapy. However, if you are prone to such blues, Dr Joshi has a few pieces of advice for you.
Try working towards having a better control over your mind through meditative techniques.
Try being self-aware and develop equanimity.
External events don't define you. Happiness is within yourself.
Your mind is your own apparatus. Don't let the mind drive you; it is YOU who should be in control of your mind.