Dealing with the emotional hangover after an anticipated event is over

For more than a year, I had been planning a single event taking place on a single day. 

It was the summer of last year when we set the date and booked the location for our wedding. Last October when we got our engagement photos taken. January when I picked out the dress I would wear. March when we booked our photographer and DJ. And that wasn’t even the half of it. 

The eight months after that consisted of hair and make-up trials, dress alterations, the bridal shower and bachelorette party, making the invitations, picking out decorations, assembling the centerpieces, and more. This all consumed me up until the day of our wedding just a few weeks ago.

Then, in the blink of an eye, it was all over, and I felt like Brittany Murphy’s character from “Just Married” on her wedding night: 

Now, it’s back to everyday life. Now, I don’t know what to do with the extra space in my brain that was consumed with wedding planning. And now, the only thing I really want to do is sleep – just go into hibernation like a bear.

I know a lot of people experience this emotional “hangover” after something they’ve been looking forward to is over. It’s the same reason January is deemed the most depressing month of the year – because it’s after the holidays and back to reality. Well, for me, I’m experiencing that feeling two months early.

So, what should you do if, when the thing you’d been planning is over, you suddenly feel unmotivated, listless and maybe even depressed? First of all, know that it’s normal to feel this way; you’re not being dramatic. Mental health professionals have even given this feeling a name: the let-down effect. 

"When we think about the process that goes into a big event, including the preparation and anticipation of the event outcomes, it comes along with a lot of dopamine release,” Dr. Elizabeth Fedrick, a licensed professional counselor in Arizona, tells Livestrong. “(Then) all those biochemicals that had been flooding your body with excitement and anticipation start to deplete and are not as active.”

So, after the big event is over or a big project is completed, take the time to rest, like your body is telling you to do. And don’t feel bad about it. 

My now-husband and I spent almost the entire weekend after our honeymoon on the couch, binge-watching the show “The Bear” on Hulu. After being so busy for the last several months, it was hard not to think, “How are you doing nothing right now? You don’t have time for this! Stop being lazy!” 

But for the first time in a long time, I actually DID have the time to do nothing. Take advantage of that time, and remind yourself that it’s okay to be lazy. You don’t need to feel guilty about it. Your body deserves – and needs – time to relax.

"Rest and breaks are critical to your function, creativity, and overall wellbeing,” Lana Lipe, a licensed clinical social worker in Hawaii, told Livestrong. “Your worth and value as a person isn't conditional, nor is it something you only deserve when you are producing something.”

It’s also important to take time to appreciate what you did. It’s easy in those quiet moments after a big event to focus on the things that went wrong. I will obsess over the little things, like the fact that hair and make-up ran late or that I completely forgot to order the late-night pizza at the end of the wedding reception, like I had promised. Knock that off! 

F. Diane Barth, a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst, wrote on Psychology Today, “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.”

Things go wrong; it happens to everyone. Remember, instead, to think about the good things! I will re-watch the videos on my phone of the bridal party laughing, and re-read the comments people posted on social media, saying how much fun they had. And I will remind myself, “Yes! I pulled it off!”

“Remembering and savoring the event, whether it’s through photos or telling people about it, can help keep the experience alive. Even though it’s done, you still have the memory,” says Dr. Shilagh A. Mirgain of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

“When you achieve (a goal), you receive something indefinable that is something you always carry. No one can take that away from you.”

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