Happy New Year!I got to be on The Early Show this morning with the new anchor team (who are GREAT, btw) talking about how to fight the post-holiday funk. It was wonderful to start the new year with the new crew!
WHY DO PEOPLE GET THE HOLIDAY BLUES?
The post holiday blues are an extension of the holiday blues. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves beginning October 31 for Halloween, quite often, and extending to December 31 when the year changes. There is a lot of stress, pressure and intensity during this two month period.
Following all of the highs and excitement of the holidays, there can be a “letdown” as you return to your daily routine. The overly scheduled time comes to an end and people may not know what to do with themselves now that there is an open calendar.
Additional to that, you may be exhausted and fatigue definitely impacts one’s mood. Additionally, it’s possible that some of the holiday expectations that you had were left unmet. Maybe this is the year that you thought your family was going to all get along, or your husband was going to by you a fabulous gift unprompted and it just didn’t happen. Those sad feelings can linger for a while. Also, perhaps Christmas time was a reminder of those who you lost last year, or a time that reminded you of the years ticking past. These feelings can be contributed to a feeling of sadness, as you face another long winter.
You also want to consider your resolutions from the past year. Did you meet them? Often at year’s end we do an inventory of how thing went, and when we see that we didn’t accomplish all that we wanted, we can end up in a funk. It’s possible that we would not have been able to meet those resolutions, but the awareness of the failure is difficult to navigate.
We cannot minimize the fact that many people feel lonely after the holidays. They just spent a great deal of time surrounded by friends and family, going from activity to activity with lots of people around and now EVERYONE is getting back to “normal.” This can often create a great deal of LONELINESS for people, which creates sad feelings.
There can be guilt too for the amount of overindulgence we do over the holidays. A study from the Consolidated Credit Counseling Services says that in November of 2003, people were still paying off their credit card debts from the previous holiday season. The National Mental Health Association cites the financial stresses of the holiday season as one of the main causes of the “holiday blues”. Debt can weigh heavily on our psyche, and that’s not all we overdo. We eat too much; we spend too much; we drink too much. This can create a lot of guilty feelings, which are not productive and are not necessarily justified, but can impact our mood in negative ways.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT YOU ARE FEELING THE BLUES?
Mood swings, although they are often temporary, are a sign of some mild depression. Feeling sad or down, and having the urge to cry (or actually crying) for no apparent reason. The National Mental Health Association also states that people can have headaches, and that post holiday blues can leave to excessive drinking or overeating. There can be increased feeling of anxiety, often caused by holiday guilt and facing a new and blank calendar of the year. Another sign of post holiday blues is a feeling of wanting to sleep, sleeping a lot or insomnia. There can also be incredible sense of fatigue.
These symptoms will generally dissipate as you get readjusted into your daily routine again. IF they persist, seek a consult with a mental health professional.
IS IT DIFFERENT FOR ADULTS AND KIDS?
We tend to think, since adults are doing the majority of the planning, that the kids do not get impacted by the blues. After all, they were on vacation, got to spend time with their friends and family and had fun getting all sorts of new things. The truth is: we cannot diminish the impact all of the revelry has on them as well. The symptoms are often the same, although may not be as intense in kids as in adults. It’s like going from 120 mph to a dead stop….it affects them too. They might seem in a brain fog, they may have trouble focusing or concentrating. They may seem agitated, reclusive, avoiding responsibility and schoolwork.
For many children, motivation can be impacted and returning to school can be difficult. Many children find that they feel sad because they are no longer engaging in the fun they had during the holidays: seeing family they don’t always get to see, playing with new games, relaxing with friends. Also, they are facing three months without another break in school.
One way to help is to create activities, as best as you can, that allows your children to see family more often or have leisure time with friends in a meaningful way. Perhaps getting your family photos developed, making a scrapbook of the holidays. Set an activity for your kids to look forward to, ice skating, a ski weekend, or a slumber party with their friends.
We know many of the reasons that adults feel the blues, and one major issue is the return to work. Many people take time off during the holidays, both by choice and as a result of federal holidays. Most people have fun with others, relaxing and enjoying the time. Now, they return to work thinking that they have to wait a while to have the same fun again (or just a vacation day). Rather than looking at the upcoming year as a marathon of days until a long period of fun returns, break it down into smaller sections. Get excited for the next holiday and plan something fun (even if it’s just a long weekend). The next federal holiday is only 2.5 weeks after New Year’s Day!
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO DECREASE AND/OR END THE BLUES?
Eat right to feel rightMost of us overindulged during the holidays. We ate more sweets than we normally do, gorged on more fattening foods than we tend to eat. Our bodies are probably craving healthier options, like fruits and vegetables. Start to cut out all of the sweet foods, heavy gravies and sauces and increase the fruits and veggies. Also increase your water intake, rather than soda, coffee or alcohol. It will hydrate you, keeping your energy up.
Whole grains! Your body absorbs whole grains slowly, which means it keep your blood sugars and energy levels stables. Nuts have magnesium; a low level of magnesium has been linked to low energy, so indulge in the non salted variety. Lean meats such as skinless chicken or turkey have the amino acid tyrosine, which boosts dopamine levels in your body, which keeps you alert and focused. Also these meats have B12, which combats insomnia and depression. Finally, salmon is high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which can protect against depression.
You may have been distracted from the shift in daylight as a result of being so focused on the holidays, but many people notice a shift in mood during the winter months, especially January and February, that changes when spring is starting. Light withdrawal is common in the winter months when the office worker spends all the daylight hours in front of the computer or at the desk, receiving only artificial lighting. The end of the shift is met by a dark journey home. Such a lifestyle can cause seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which can have a debilitating effect on some people.
This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, and although you might not meet all the criteria for diagnosis, the shorter days/longer nights can impact your mood negatively. Get outside as much as you can.
Another alternative is to get a sunlamp that you can use for 10 minutes a day, which will help with Vitamin D and that need for light. Marked improvement is usually observed within four or five days, if not sooner, and symptoms often return in about the same amount of time when the lights are withdrawn. Some people take longer than the usual few days to respond to light. It is therefore worth persevering for a week or two before concluding that light therapy doesn’t work. Most users maintain a consistent daily schedule of light exposures beginning -as needed – in fall or winter and usually continuing until spring, when outdoor light becomes sufficient to maintain good mood and high energy.
Give yourself permission to feel bad for a brief period of time. Recognize that the negative feelings are there…feel them…and allow yourself to move out of them. Keep telling yourself you are not the only one feeling these feelings. It sounds cliché, but it helps if you keep reminding yourself you are not alone.
The past two months, most likely, have been incredibly busy and filled with activities. You probably have not gotten the sleep you need to feel good. Lack of sleep is connected with depression and irritability, as well as other health concerns such as weight gain. Try to give yourself a week of 8 hours a night, to get yourself back on track. After that, work on getting back to your regular sleep cycle. Additionally, recognize that rest is not just sleep; it includes incorporating down time into your schedule.
Focus on the future:
Look at your resolutions and really focus on getting started. What kinds of things do you want to accomplish? How are you going to break them down and start? This can help you look ahead instead of looking back and give you something to look forward to. It’s also never too early to get started for next year! If you love the holidays that much, maybe you start planning already.
Create special time:
Why is it only on holidays that we create special time? This can be something that you do once a month. Find time to do something special once a month. Include those people that you love as much as possible. This can boost your mood, give you something to look forward to, and allow you to stay connected in positive ways.
Keep the beauty:
The decorations may come down, but the beauty of the holidays doesn’t need to end just because the tree and lights are gone. When you take the tree down, replace it with some pretty flowers to keep your house decorated. Put out some pictures of the holiday to remind you of the joy you experienced. Create a scrapbook of your favorite memories of the holiday time.
Remember that the blues can be a temporary thing and that you can engage in activities to help you manage them more effectively.
What do you do to manage your post-holiday blues?
Here’s the clip from my chat with Chris Wragge: