After spending a wonderful holiday over the Christmas and New Year period, some people feel blue and find that it’s difficult to function normally in their daily rhythm. Holiday blues, holiday depression, or post-Christmas blues, these commonly used terms depict the mental distress occurring after the winter holidays and festival season. This article is focused on experiencing the “blues” since this term suggests mild mental distress, a commonly occurring phenomenon when dealing with daily life stress and change. Below are some suggested steps to get rid of your post winter festive season holiday blues.
1. Expect some letdown. The holiday season is both joyful and stressful at once. There is family to get along with, gifts to buy and return, people to visit, activities to throw yourself into, plenty of festive food to eat, sales to rush to, and parties to plan and attend. Topped off with the excitement of New Year’s Eve, your adrenaline has probably been pumping a lot of the time during the Christmas and New Year’s period. Returning to the usual routine and probably quieter workplace than normal can dampen your spirits just by the absence of exciting things to do and look forward to. Equally, if your Christmas and New Year’s Eve period wasn’t as enjoyable as you had hoped, you can be left feeling down about the lack of enjoyment you’d expected and this can sour your mood. Expecting to feel a little low is a way of telling yourself that this is a normal feeling and that it will soon pass once the routine re-establishes itself. Look at your past experiences to enlighten you as to your normal post-holiday feelings. Do you always fall into a slump after the holiday season? If you have spent period of time after last two holidays in despair, then the chances of this post holiday period continuing in despair are high. Look carefully about what you did last time and what relaxed you. And realize that generally this is a phase that is easily fixed.
2. Choose to see the benefits of post-holiday time. The good side to the end of the holidays is that you’ve had a chance to rest, to relax, and to enjoy yourself. The craziness prior to Christmas has ended both at the workplace and in the home, and the restful time after Christmas and New Year’s Eve has hopefully given you the opportunity to do things that are different from your usual routine. And any break in the routine is good for the spirit, providing you with the chance to rejuvenate. Take it easy when you’re settling back down into your usual routine. Your more rested self is a good thing and gives you an opportunity to take a renewed perspective on your work, routine, study, or home life pace. Perhaps the break has given you perspective on your life, job, relationships etc. If so, this is a good time to consider making changes to improve your situation, especially because not making the changes can prolong your blues.
3. Take it easy and be gentle on yourself with respect to your New Year’s Resolutions. If you set the bar too high and you already feel as if you’re slipping, don’t berate yourself. Instead, look at your resolutions realistically and assess whether they need some tweaking to ensure that they’re achievable. Discard the resolutions that required you to be too harsh on yourself and reform them into ones that can be met now that the heady atmosphere of New Year’s Eve is behind you. Think of it as a double checking of the details, and simply fiddle with the fine print! Taking weight loss as an example, targeting for a size zero is unrealistic, but looking for 1 pound loss in a span of a week or two seems to be more achievable.
4. Keep being around people. Some of the post-holiday season blues might be related to having been around many people over the Christmas break and then suddenly finding yourself surrounded by people you don’t know that well, or even not by many people at all. Lift your spirits by continuing to stay connected with friends and family, and getting out and about to do activities where other people interact with you.
5. Do things that give you cause to look forward to something. Revive the excitement of anticipation by arranging fun things, such as having dinner with friends, starting a new class for a hobby or interest, attending a sporting event regularly, going to the movies, etc. Choose activities that meet your budget and interests, and that you know will give you a thrill.
6. Make healthy choices. After the many indulgences over the holiday period, it can leave you feeling a little out of shape and worse for wear in the nutrition department. Aim to return to eating healthy food, drinking healthy drinks, and ensuring that you keep getting a good amount of exercise. Eating well and keeping up regular exercise will enhance your mood and help you return to good shape and fitness levels. If you’re worried about not keeping warm enough during the colder weather, have more healthy chunky, warming soups that will both warm and fill you up without carrying lots of calories. Warm salads are also an excellent choice during winter. Eat foods that boost your serotonin (feel good) neurotransmitters. Suitable foods containing tryptophan (the building block for serotonin) include bananas, poultry, dairy produce, and peas. Keep exercising no matter the weather. Exercise will give you the mood-boost you need and gets you moving again. If you’re living in a cold climate, there are plenty of winter exercising options such as walking, skiing, and gym workouts, and for those in a hot climate, swimming, hiking, and water sports are ideal mood lifters.
7. Make this a time for getting professional help and turning around things that have been bothering you. The holiday season tends to put a hold on pressing issues at work and in your personal life because the celebrations, meet-ups, and preparations require your foremost attention. Once this busyness dies down, you’re returned to thinking about your general life issues and this might just be a good time to get help from the professionals, be it for anything from sorting out your finances or dealing with the unhappy feelings you’re experiencing. If you didn’t plan so well for the holidays and find yourself deep down in the debt rack, get financial advice immediately and start to sort out the finances sooner rather than later. It might reduce the indulgences for now but this is probably the best time to feel the least deprived about indulgences!
8. Make plans for the year ahead. Expect to enjoy the year ahead. Trying to keep a positive frame of mind and planning for interesting and fulfilling events throughout the year is a good way to calm your current blues. Think ahead to the changing seasons and the sorts of things you’d like to be doing as the year moves on, and the sorts of activities and events you’d like to be a part of. Doing something about the things you’d like to happen is the first step and once you’re immersed in planning and doing, you’ll be too busy to fret. If you want to travel, start planning the trip and budget now. If you’ve got big plans ahead like your own or someone else’s wedding, having a baby, renovating a home, taking your parents on a cruise, etc., throw yourself into planning.
9. Sometimes a person suffering from post holiday syndrome or post-Christmas blues can behave in erratic fashion for the initial weeks after the holiday, doing things like waking at night and sleeping during the day. This type of behavior can be attributed to heavy responsibilities which people experience during holidays. Realize that the change back to a normal routine is disruptive and ease yourself back into it. Before heading back to work, study, or your daily home life routine, it can be helpful to ensure that you have dealt with the vestiges of the season. Pack up the Christmas tree and decorations, take down the cards and recycle or box them, finish the leftovers, etc. Leaving these reminders around can bring on anxiety because they remain tasks to be done and can also bring on a sense of sadness. Get other members of the family or household to help you clear this up in a busy afternoon and share a delicious meal afterward.
10. The more severe form of post holiday syndrome or post-Christmas blues is referred to as depression. This is an illness of persistent sadness, and is not attributed to normal holiday reaction. Seek professional help if you’re concerned that you might be suffering from depression. A mental health professional, such as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, can help you discuss and explore with you, your possible family history of depression, alcohol and substance abuse, and other life stresses that may be contributing to ongoing depression.