The Struggle is Real: Television Finales Can Trigger “End of Season Blues”

Have you ever found yourself reaching for a tub of ice cream after a series or season finale?  Feeling sad or depressed that your favorite program is coming to an end? (“Scandal”, anyone?) If so, you’re not alone.

In the era of binge-watching and the growing popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, those “end-of-season blues” are more real than ever.

While the relationship people develop with their favorite team, sport or television series may seem frivolous to some, for others, the strong connection can mirror facets of actual social relationships they have, according to researchers. Studies have shown that people may experience the same symptoms and feelings when a favorite TV show wraps up as they might experience when they end a relationship with a peer or partner.

A Parasocial Relationship

Have you ever felt anxious thinking about a character, celebrity or sports figure when you are not watching or triggered by the show? You might be in a “parasocial relationship,” a term that describes the one-sided nature of these relationships in which the character or sports team are not active participants. In many ways, the development of parasocial relationships or attachments to characters/players naturally occurs when you regularly immerse yourself in watching sports games or TV episodes.

These relationships can have some positive benefits for fans, offering them:

  • A distraction from the stress of everyday life;
  • A common interest with coworkers and friends, creating a sense of belonging;
  • And, in some cases, comfort for loneliness.

The Pitfalls

But there are negative consequences, too. Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center have found that excessive consumption of media can lead to weight gain due to more screen time than gym time, sleep disturbances due to the screen’s blue light emittance and feelings of depression, loneliness and guilt.

How to Manage

If you find yourself experiencing end-of-season blues or mild depression as a result of your favorite program coming to an end, you can manage your symptoms by eating balanced meals, exercising daily, getting enough sleep, and reaching out to others for support.

In addition, practicing mindfulness has been found to greatly reduce anxiety and depression. Integrating a short meditation can help you relax and refocus your mind.

For beginners, a practice called Guided Imagery can be a great introduction to mindfulness as it’s both easy to follow and easy to find. Instructional videos are available online. Others find journaling relaxing and a way to release some negative thoughts or feelings.

Consume Responsibly

Want to protect yourself against the end-of-season blues? You don’t have to end your love affair with your favorite sports team or refrain from binge-watching “Game of Thrones,” just consume media with a mindful approach (and  swap out the buttery popcorn for veggie trays). Also, prepare ahead of time for the end of the season or series finale by having a plan to fill the mental and time space the show once consumed.

This blog post was written by Mariam Massoud, PhD, LMFT, education specialist, Memorial Hermann Behavioral Health Services. You can discuss feelings of sadness and depression with your primary care physician. If you don’t have a physician, we can help you find one.  Learn more here.  

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