It’s the 27th of December and Christmas has disappeared for another year. The whirlwind pace of cheer; cooking; gift buying; holiday cocktails; visitors; and parties are a thing of yesterday…. and the day before that…. AND, the day before that.
The dramatic change can bring on post-holiday ‘blues’, or post-holiday ‘depression’. Like most, we have returned to our place of employment. We are back to eating healthy; or have decided on the more drastic route of a diet. The gym bag is back in rotation. The routine of life has been reinstated.
This sadness or disappointment, post the hubablub of the holiday frenzy, is basically post-holiday normalization. Normal, every day life lacks ribbons, wrapping paper, and spiked egg nog. Normal, every day life is riddled with chores, low-carb meal planning, and bill paying. Christmas, like many other big life events; weddings, vacation travel, a race, or performance, can leave us disappointed or deflated after it’s over. “What goes up , must come down.”
Whether you like the Christmas Holiday Season or not, it still comes with some intense stress. Traveling to see relatives or hosting some in our home can wreak havoc on our emotional wellbeing. What about toxic family members? Those who have anger management issues, or drink too much, or just don’t see the world through the same lens as us can evoke anxiety. For most of the year, we can avoid these individuals. Sadly, during the holidays, it can be near impossible.
If family duress is not enough, our body’s need to recover from all the indulgent eating, over imbibing, and minimal exercise can also wreak havoc. No wonder we crash. The sooner we are ok with that fact the sooner we can get ourselves through the bleakness of the post ho-ho-hoing. The concept of detachment, a la Taoist style, can rescue us from disappointment. Dissatisfaction lies in the chasm between reality and expectations. The better we are at detaching ourselves from our expectations, accepting that things are not inherently or exclusively good or bad, the better we are at taking back our joy.
Make a note of the delta between what was expected and what was experienced. Accept the reality and the disappointment will disappear. Re-set your expectations to an ‘acceptance mindset’. As Brené Brown says; “The Magic is in the Mess”.
Once we accept the transitional downturn, what can we actually do to shorten the climb back to reality?
Let’s get excited about the blank calendar in front us. The clean slate that is the next year allows us to think big and set some spectacular goals. While there are many ways to combat the post-holiday blue period, here I suggest five – somewhat straight-forward actions; we can embark on immediately.
- Learn a musical instrument or second language. We don’t need to become the next Yo Yo Ma or build a resume for an interpreter’s job at the United Nations to gain the benefits from stretching ourselves mentally.
- Plan a big trip. Being able to look forward to an adventure will kickstart our happy juices. Researching locales, finding, and booking reservations – even for a trip several months out, all add to the anticipation.
- Volunteer. It is well known that volunteering makes us happy. Giving back to individuals who are worse off than ourselves boosts our emotional and physical health. Volunteering combats loneliness, increases our self-confidence, and can provide us with a sense of purpose.
- Get organized and de-clutter. From the no longer used and/or broken holiday decorations to the sweater in the back of our closet that we haven’t worn in three years, streamlining our existence gives a healthy start to any year. Cleaning and decluttering can be therapeutic. Have three bags at the ready: one for trash, one for recycling, and one for charity. Giving away items, we no longer need or use, to other’s less fortunate adds to the feel good.
- Try an online dating service. If you’re single only please. If you’re married, this will must surely lead to more stress and anxiety – NOT less. Good sex is an inseparable part of our well-being and happiness. Those of us who engage in more sex report better quality of life.
Lastly, we need to remember that the trough in our emotions post-holiday is normal and not critical. Our brain is exaggerating; we aren’t actually doomed. The contrast effect is short-lived. The amped-up expectations of the holiday period, juxtapositioned against the mundane post-holiday weeks, represent a classic contrast effect. It screws with our brains, making us perceive the post-Christmas period as far more depressing and boring than it actually is. As long as our blue period is not longer than Picasso’s, we can push forward and write a new and exciting script for the New Year. Please, please note – if you find yourself in the doldrums with little to no way out; seek a professional!