Why You Feel Blue/Meh/Blah After Doing Something ExcitingPost-excitement lows aren't always a bad thing.
Have you ever gone through a period of intense excitement or finally accomplished a major achievement and felt a noticeable dip in your mood or just a little confused and aimless after? That’s a post-excitement low. And while this very specific type of bummer is not a clinical term or diagnosis, it’s totally normal and super common after things like a vacation, a race, a wedding, or anything you were psyched about.
For Margarita Bregolat, 27, that post-excitement low kicked in pretty quickly after graduating from business school. In the lead-up to graduation, she spent countless late nights and more than three months working on her thesis and prepping for that final presentation in her digital marketing program—while also juggling a full-time job.
“It was very present in my mind that if I made it to graduation then everything leading up to that day would have gone well and anything coming my way after would be, in part, thanks to the experience,” she says. Then, suddenly, her presentation was over in a matter of minutes, and graduation day had arrived. Excited to end her program on a good note, Bregolat tried not to focus too much on what comes next, but the whole thing felt surreal.
The comedown is real, friends.
One of the reasons doing something cool can lead to a major letdown is that the anticipation induces a positive version of stress, making us feel energized and excited, psychologist Alicia Hodge, PsyD, says. So once the thing is over, the comedown to normalcy can feel especially meh compared to the hype you experienced pre-fun thing.
Then there’s the fact that shit inevitably happens—even after you accomplish a major milestone. Bills have to be paid, laundry has to be done, traffic has to be sat in, all of which can overshadow how much fun you had or how much ass you kicked doing big stuff.
If you have perfectionist tendencies (i.e. you value achieving stuff, you feel like your accomplishments are never good enough, and/or you undermine your accomplishments by claiming “it wasn’t that hard”), you might fall into post-excitement-lows more often than others. “Perfectionists are really forward facing, and they're constantly trying to one-up themselves or check [off another achievement], but they don't feel fulfilled,” Dr. Hodge says. So exciting events rarely feel as exciting as expected when all is said and done, or they’re quickly undercut by high standards and chasing after the next goal.
For Bregolat, that forward-looking mentality was heightened after she earned her degree. On top of that, work didn’t stop, and having school friends still in town made it feel like nothing really changed. “You know when you wake up on your birthday and think, I feel exactly the same way I felt yesterday? It was kind of like that in the beginning,” she recalls feeling. “Then, after a few days, it hit me that this chapter of my life was very much over,” she says.
As frustrating as post-excitement lows might be, they play an important role in your mental health. No, really! Feeling excited and having an elevated mood are side effects of adrenaline and dopamine pumping through your system, but our bodies aren’t meant to have those hormones raging all the time (even if it does sound fun in theory), psychologist Monica Johnson, PsyD, says. Basically, the low you feel after a really big event is just your system getting back to baseline, which is a good thing!
Here's how to deal with a post-excitement low.
Post-excitement lows ultimately signal that you just did something really freaking cool, so acknowledge that again if it helps, and try to remember why you went after this thing to begin with. “If you can go into whatever the celebration or accomplishment is and be present, have that gratitude, and be like, ‘Wow, I really worked hard. I got here. I did this,’ you actually will probably feel more fulfilled by it and less of that dip,” Dr. Hodge says. “You get to experience the moment versus being like, ‘OK, I'm onto the next thing.’”
Instead of chasing more milestones or wallowing in the boringness of it all, try to embrace the calm. You can start by finding sustainable micro-moments of happiness and achievement, like chilling out with a cold drink and a good book on a hot day, practicing a hobby, or just taking a shower today (yes, that counts!), Dr. Johnson suggests.
If you’re worried about being slapped with one of these mood dips after an upcoming event, try to set yourself up with something fun to do after. Make a list of little things you think could bring you joy at any given moment, like a paint night or picnic with your best friend, and schedule a time to do one after your exciting thing happens so you’re not feeling stuck wondering what to do if and when a low hits.
Rethinking what happiness and achievements mean for you and managing expectations around how one life event will make you feel can curb that comparatively low feeling and help you feel more content on a regular basis. So check in with yourself before, during, and after exciting periods to stay mindful of what actually makes you satisfied.
Once that this-is-really-over feeling hit Bregolat, “it helped to channel any sadness into finding reasons to be grateful for the experience,” she says. She also started to think about how she could apply what she learned in school in a work environment to use her accomplishment-focused mindset to her advantage. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that she immediately booked a train ticket to visit her whole family for a mini reunion for the first time in three years. “That brings me more joy than graduation did!” she says.
Remember this: You’re not always trying to be an extreme 10 out of 10 happy, but more like a realistic 7 out of 10 happy, Dr. Johnson says. “You're not meant to stay in a zone of like, ‘I'm ecstatic! I'm thrilled! I'm excited!’ That actually burns through a lot of resources [in your body] in order to keep you at that state. In your average day-to-day, you're looking for more of these cooler emotions. You're looking for contentment, satisfaction.”
These dips can happen to anyone, but if you’re worried about them turning into something more serious, like clinical depression, consider reaching out to a mental health pro. You know your typical baseline when you’re not swept up in excitement, so if your behavior changes and/or something feels off for longer than a couple of weeks, don’t ignore it.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.