- Isabelle Morley, PsyD
Managing the Post-Holiday Blues
Many people feel down after the holidays are over, and even more so now due to COVID. Here are some ways to manage those post-holiday blues.
As the daylight hours dwindle and the cold sets in, most people look forward to the holiday season. It is a time of merriment, family, good food, presents, decorations, and relaxation. No matter which holiday you observe, knowing that there will be a long period of celebration helps people adjust to the seasonal change.
However, January 1st marks the end of the holiday season, and many people feel down as they start the new year. In January we're truly in the thick of winter, which (if you live in New England) means short days, cold weather, snow to shovel, and very little to do. This is especially true this winter due to the pandemic, since activities that make the winter more bearable (spending time with friends, traveling to a warm beach somewhere) are no longer available.
If you're one of those people who's feeling an acute case of the post-holiday blues this year, maybe some of these strategies will help.
1. Find Something (Anything!) to Look Forward to Every Week
Having things to look forward to help break up the monotony of our daily routines. Find small things to look forward to every day if you can, even something small like a hot cup of coffee in the morning or an episode of your current favorite show at night. Daily gratitude journaling or mindfulness practices can help with this.
Also, make a ritual of how you mark the end of the week, otherwise the days begin to feel the same. Make Friday night special somehow- order pizza, have a movie night, go on a hike after work, make a fort in your living room and have a pajama party- any relaxing, fun, or different activity that makes the start of the weekend feel special.
2. View This as Temporary
As hard as this is, remember that this won't last forever. In fact, nothing lasts forever. Although you're feeling down now, eventually your spirits will lift. Even though the restrictions due to COVID are difficult and you might miss being with your family and friends, eventually you will be able to see them again.
You have been through holiday seasons before and you know that it can be challenging immediately afterward. And yet, you also know that every year you get through the January (and perhaps February, too) blues. The winter solstice was December 21st, which means days are already getting longer and every day we are getting more light and inching our way towards spring.
3. Plan a Vacation
This is especially challenging now because of the pandemic, but planning a vacation may help. Even if this means planning a vacation for the far future. In fact, research has shown that the planning of a vacation is a better mood boost than actually being on the vacation! So sit down with your computer, pick a destination, and start making your itinerary.
4. Get Outside
Being in the same environment every day is not conducive to mental health. Humans do like routine and familiarity, but they also need change and excitement. Small adventures outdoors can do wonders for your mood. Take your dog to the park, find a new trail to hike, drive somewhere new and walk around the town center, go to a beach and listen to the waves- find a way to be in nature, preferably somewhere new, and be present.
If You Still Feel SAD
You might need to keep doing things to boost your mood during the cold winter months, but you might also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you notice you feel depressed every winter, but better in the spring and summer, it's worth speaking with a professional. You may benefit from therapy, medication, or light therapy.