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 http://www.drarleneunger.com.