Post-Holiday Blues is not a myth. It is the feeling of letdown and anticlimax after the excitement of big celebrations coming from all the hope and energy that we put into them versus all the potential disappointments that we get out. We may feel this even more if we feel we frittered away precious time that we cannot get back.

There is an implied “rule” or norm about having to be happy as we celebrate the holidays. We are supposed to be joyous and optimistic, but this is not always the case for everyone. In fact, we may feel blah about the year that just past or the upcoming new year, especially now with all the potential uncertainties around the pandemic, economy, climate, and so forth.

Nonetheless we put on a happy face when asked “How was your Holiday?” The truth is that so many have had to forgo plans with friends and family this year due to COVID, travel costs and interruptions, weather, or just mental fatigue. Gatherings, especially during these unprecedented times can leave us bewildered, sad, anxious, disappointed, and lonely. Much of this has to do with the unrealistic demands we, or others, place on ourselves. If we buy into these false expectations, it will only deepen feelings of isolation, not measuring up, and even depression.

To cope better with the Post-Holiday Blues, we need to harness our isolation, manage our obligations, and adapt. The strategies below may help:

  • Accept that we are all different and the world is different as time goes by. If we went to a large public celebration one year, we embrace playing scrabble with a friend next year. Rather than over commit, tell yourself this new year is time to do a little less, and self-soothe more.
  • There is nothing like walking off a meal. With holiday overeating it may be a must. Rather than create unwanted pressures, just set little reminders on your phone to breathe slowly, stretch and go out for a walk. When obligations, or the lack thereof, become too much, just walk them off. Remember the more sunlight and fresh air we get, the more we will attract positive thinking and healthy problem solving.
  • It is easy to bemoan the conflict between what we wished we could have done and what we actually did. Rather than fret over missed opportunities, make this new year about trying new things that make life more interesting and special.
  • Throw out your old ideas that everything must be just one particular way. Be flexible and accept that change is normal. You might try a new herbal tea or international cuisine, change up your daily home routine, go to some outdoor venue you’ve never visited before, listen to a different style of music, read a different type of book, take an online course … Change does not always need to involve money, or more time; you can change almost anything, and it can help lift you out of that blah feeling.
  • The real crux of Post-Holiday Blues is the lack of connection. This may sound strange, but to stay connected you must be able to take emotional risks. This means being a little vulnerable but telling those you trust the truth about how you really feel and what you really need. A hug goes a long way, and you might find out that sharing will lead to you feeling unburdened and them to caring more.
  • Too many of us agonize about reaching out to out-of-contact family or friends. They may need some support now too, so why not just try it?
  • Be honest when someone asks you about post-holiday plans or resolutions. Most people won’t judge and are in the same boat. Sharing your goals with a friend can help you both to come to the best solutions and reinforce your desire to stay on track.
  • Don’t have much going on in the new year? think again. Instead of bemoaning the fact that you have nowhere to go, see where you can lend a hand by volunteering. Your community may have ways for you to get involved It is a matter of reaching out and allowing yourself to give what you want to get.
  • Look for the good deeds and overlook the roadblocks. It is so true that holding grudges is not only bad for your health but attracts more stress down the road.

The best protection against Post-Holiday Blues is self-care. Manage all that food consumption with an appropriate get-fit routine, get enough sleep, try new things, reach out to others, and have a positive attitude. We can always get through any stressful event if we just keep up with a healthy lifestyle. Not only is it good for your mind and body, but it is also a great distraction from everyday worries.


Everyday Positive Thinking (Louise Hay).

In A Holidaze (Christina Lauren)

Wintering “The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. (Katherine May)

When Holidays Hurt (Bo Stern)


Arlene K. Unger, PhD is a seasoned Telehealth Psychologist in Dana Point, California. She can be found on numerous mental health platforms and accepts most insurances. In addition, she has authored 7 books on positive visualization and mindfulness. Arlene was past president of Orange County Psychological Association in 2012 and has continued to serve as a Clinical Affiliate of the Executive Well-Being Committee at Mission Hospital since 2014. Her many other blogs and articles can be found on her website

“Calm” and “Sleep” books now available at Barnes & Noble

My two books on “Calm” and “Sleep” are now available at Barnes & Noble, in store and online (click on titles below).

These books (the first two of a planned series) contain 50 simple cognitive behavior (CBT), emotional brain training (EBT) and mindfulness/visualizations/relaxation (MBSR) exercises to help readers learn coping skills. Each book focuses on a particular topic and is beautifully printed with rich illustrations and exercises.

They also make an excellent and thoughtful gift!

Calm: 50 Mindfulness Exercises to De-Stress

We can’t escape stress and, in fact, some stress can be helpful to us (“Fight or Flight”).

Humans are equipped to cope with small amount of stress. It can serve as a motivator, keep us focused on our priorities, or help us to detect danger. Misery replaces growth when we are bombarded by stress and can’t escape it. Unrelenting stress deprives our bodies of the homeostatic experience we need and crave.

Many of us are in search tranquility and calm, but this is hard to find when so many are combating stress related illnesses. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) the impact of stress on the USA population has substantially risen in the last decade.  The toll stress has taken on people’s live has contributed to 77% health and 73% psychological problems.  Compulsive eating, alcohol/tobacco abuse, and drug addiction are too often used to curb stress but they only compound the problem.

Rather than turning toward nonproductive methods of coping, this book offers ways to unleash our mind and bodies from the negative cycle of stress.

Fortunately, our brain, bodies and beliefs can be trained through daily practice to embrace peace while protecting us from harmful stressors.

Sleep: 50 Mindfulness Exercises for a Restful Night’s Sleep

One of the most troubling behaviors that effect one out of every 3 people is sleeplessness. So why do we need sleep? First it occupies so much of our 24 hours each day! According to the National Sleep Foundation our bodies need sleep for restoration and rejuvenation. Similar to nutrition, sleep helps our body repair itself on many levels. Sleep has been touted as a necessary luxury, but research shows that we need sleep to function both mentally and physically at our peak levels.

We do know is that our sleep can improve with treatment. Medication does help, but, in most cases, sleep sufferers do better with psychotherapeutic strategies and suffer fewer (or no) side-effects.

Sports and neurological research points out that mental imagery can have a positive impact on our mental health.

The next two books in the series “Happy” and “Courage” are currently in press.

Office Clients Note: I have a small supply of the “Calm” and “Sleep” books as well as my book  “Presence of Mind – Mindful Affirmations” available in my office just for office clients.

Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 9 – Fitness and Mindfulness

Staying Fit Supports Mindfulness

The old adage “sleep begets sleep” applies to exercise too: the more active you are the more active you’ll want be.

According to the staff of the Mayo Clinic, every time we move we’re essentially relieving stress. Scientist have shown that any form of exercise can boost our endorphins and keep our daily worries at bay.

But, not everyone is an athlete, or even athletic, for that matter. Even if you don’t have a gym membership or belong to a yoga group, just walking, house cleaning or yard work are all forms of aerobic activity. You just have to do enough of it, and with the right mindset.

So how can the act of moving prevent burn out and keep us mindful? Burn out is the imbalance of inputs and outputs. If we put out too much energy and have little or nothing to show for it, we feel depleted because there is no corresponding mental balance to offset the physical effort. Exercise can replenish us because it is something good that we are doing for ourselves and, in turn, we receive direct benefits.

The adrenaline can pep us up but, more importantly, afterwards the endorphins can relieve our daily tensions and make us feel good.

Lately, the medical literature has noted that mindfulness is a key ingredient to being happy. In a special report published by the Harvard Health Publication “Mindfulness” is referred to the practice purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment.

A key goal of any mindfulness activity is to achieve a state of alert relaxation by deliberately paying attention to our thoughts and sensations without bias. Mindfulness uses meditation as a technique to calm the body and ease the mind from racing thoughts.

Being “In the Zone”

Likewise focused exercise has been shown to clear the mind of unnecessary distractions and stressors. Regular, focused exercise can definitely support mindful practice by emptying our mind of what we can’t control and allowing our mind to refocus on what we are actively doing.

Athletes sometimes call this “being in the zone,” which is similar to mindfulness concepts (see my earlier blogs).

Here are some ways that staying fit can bust through our stress, prevent burnout and keep us mindful:

  • Motion is like meditation. Activity can help you forget the traffic jam you were in this morning and concentrate on your body in action.
  • World becomes clear: Fitness can give us more optimism and bandwidth. Our inner world feels calmer and everything around us more clear.
  • Mood over madness: Exercising regularly acts as a relaxant while giving us more life satisfaction and wellbeing. It can stimulate positivity and lower the effects of depression or anxiety.
  • A runner’s high: Exercise helps pump up our endorphins (as well as adrenaline), our feel-good brain transmitters. You don’t have run to experience this high; there is also hiking, gardening, volley ball and mopping the floor. Just concentrate and keep your hear trate up for a few minutes a day.
  • On top of the world: Making fitness a top priority also gives us more command over our life circumstances and body. It is the only “medication” that reduces our frustration, opens our senses, makes us aware of our bodily sensations and increases our capacity to stay present.

If you are thinking of adding exercise to your regime, consult your physician, start gradually, make it a labor of love and repeat on a sensible schedule.

Whatever you do, don’t think of exercise as “have to,” but rather make it enjoyable. You deserve to unwind, stay in touch and ease your stress levels.


Positive Psychology: Harnessing the Power of Happiness, Personal Strength, and Mindfulness, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publications

Book: Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management Publication

How to Reduce Stress with Exercise (video)