Anyone who's ever looked forward to something big and exciting knows too well what follows. Whether it's a wedding, vacation, big holiday — or even just a particularly nice long weekend — invariably the good times have to come to an end. And then come the post-event blues.
You know the feeling: You've been planning and looking forward to this big thing for a good chunk of time. It may have become all consuming. And it was wonderful. But now it's over and it's back to the usual hum-drum. I've been there. After the Kentucky Derby this year when the mint juleps stopped flowing and I traded by big hat and fancy dress for work-from-home attire, it was hard to just sit at my laptop. Of course after every trip to Paris it's the same letdown. Thinking about a major event like a wedding? The struggle must be real.
To find out how we can all cope with the post-whatever the case may be blues, I talked with Jocelyn Charnas, a clinical psychologist practicing in Manhattan — also known as the Wedding Doctor — for her work helping couples deal with the very real aftermath of their big day.
What you're feeling is real
And she wants you to know, that yes, when it comes to the blues like this, “It absolutely is a real thing. I've felt it in my own life and I see it in my office very week,” she said. “Any life event that we look forward to we run the risk of having a little bit of the blues after. It's sort of a normal human experience.”
When it comes to weddings, Charnas said, “a lot of it stems from the tremendous expectations that we put on the wedding date and the tremendous focus that we put on it in the months preceding it. One could argue that it has gotten worse in the era of social media — the behemoth of the wedding industry, the idea that this should be quote unquote the best day of our lives, women can spend years [planning this one day].”
After sinking so much energy into one day, “it's almost inevitable that after the fact there is a sense of disappointment and letdown,” she said. “In a way it's a loss that we mourn.”
How to get ahead of the letdown
So what can we do about it? Well, to start, “even expecting and respecting that there will be those feelings gives us license to feel the blues,” Charnas said. “The worst thing we can do in invalidate our own feelings and kick them under rugs. It should be normalized, this is something we look very forward to and it's natural. There's no way to get rid of it completely.”
If it's the best day of your life that's wonderful, but the truth is it's just a party to signify the start of a life together.
But you can help mitigate it, she said. “A big one I work on with clients as they're approaching their wedding and marriage is to shift their focus from the wedding to the marriage itself and the relationship.” That not only helps ease the blues, she said, but is important in regaining perspective. “If it's the best day of your life that's wonderful, but the truth is it's just a party to signify the start of a life together.”
Another technique for minimizing letdown in the aftermath — not just for weddings, but for anything that can take over our lives — “is to try to be aware when we are being all consumed, whether it's wedding, renovation, whatever it is.” In her work with couples, Charnas encourages them to not make the wedding all there is in their lives. “Have two days where you don't talk about it,” she said. The idea is to balance our focus so that it's not such a disproportionate piece of our lives, “so we're not so starved [for it] after the fact.”
When she's working with a couple she thinks this may be a big issue for, she suggests maybe not going on the honeymoon immediately after the wedding, but spreading things out so there are more things to look forward to. Because it's only natural to want to look forward to something, she said. “I love to have a vacation on the horizon — it brings me pleasure. It's wonderful to set things up in life that I'll get joy out of.” She cautioned, however, “the problem is when it's never enough, when we can't tolerate not having something to look forward to.” We have to ask ourselves, she said “what's going on when daily life isn't meeting our needs?”
Another contributor to the blues phenomenon is forgetting the rest of our life when we're immersed in the big event. “Sometimes when we're so focused on one thing it's at the expense of other things,” Charnas said. “When we put off other things for a long time we're then faced with the enormity of those things [afterwards].” Whether you're planning a wedding, a big vacation, or a whole house renovation, “life must go on,” she said.
You have to be realistic
Here's the thing. Yes, we can take these steps to address the blues, said Charnas. But, “some of this has to be expected. Despite what's on Instagram we are not going to be happy every single day of our lives. Some days we're happy, some days we're nervous, some days not much of anything happens. This idea that every day has to be this fabulous Instagram filtered event leads people to those unrealistic idea of what life should be like. Coming back to work after vacation that stinks, that's a bummer for everyone. Maybe there doesn't need to a way to mitigate that. We have to be able to have the blues after vacation so we can look forward to the next one.”
More Coping Strategies
Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.