Dealing with Post-Holiday Blues

Monday, December 26, 2016
By Phil Elmore

There are any number of reasons some people feel depressed or stressed leading up to and during the holidays. Feeling lonely because they lack family or romantic connections, feeling overwhelmed, feeling financial pressure, or simply feeling left out as the rest of the world seems to be having a wonderful time with friends and family… these are all very real issues for many of us. Social media exacerbates the problem. Your connections post images of gifts and gatherings, reveling in this time of year, prompting you to compare your own experiences to theirs. And don’t forget that with the days short and the weather oppressive, seasonal depression may also come into play.

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The fact is, “the most wonderful time of the year” can be anything but for many of your friends and family… and for you. You’d think the end of the holidays would lead to relief for those affected, but this isn’t always the case. Often, the let-down after Christmas and the New Year are past can be even worse, intensifying the feelings of depression that some feel between December and January. So what can you do to prevent feeling bad during this time of year… or to feel better if you’re already down? Here are four suggestions.

Avoid Bitter Social Media Posts

Every one of us has turned to social media to vent about the things that bother us. We hope to receive support and even sympathy from our connections. For those most part, we’ll get just that, at least from those who choose to respond. Overwhelmingly, though, your connections will perceive your holiday venting as whining. It will diminish you in their eyes, making you look weak, or simply annoying those who are enjoying the afterglow of Christmas and New Year’s. This is not to say your feelings are not valid; they are. But you do yourself more harm than good by sharing those complaints. A diary or journal — or an anonymous blog — are the best places for writing these types of bitter thoughts. Publicly attaching these complaints to your real identity, on the other hand, makes your social media contacts see you as passive-aggressive at best… and a Grinch at worst.

Get Through It, Then Get Organized

The best way to clear out feelings of stress, depression, and the holiday blues is to get organized. There’s no avoiding the feelings the holidays may bring while they’re happening; you’re just going to have to endure those. But once you find yourself in the holidays’ wake, take advantage of any extra downtime to clear the decks of old business and straighten your work spaces. Clean up, organize, and position yourself for a productive new year. Never underestimate the psychological benefit of a freshly cleaned and organized work area to re-frame your mental state. If your area is orderly, your thoughts will be more so.

Do Something — Anything — Productive

The next step, once you’ve steered clear of social media venting and organized your work area, is to get warmed up. Just as an athlete stretches before exerting himself, you can’t jump right into a productive post-holiday period completely cold. Get your mind working, shake off the rust you’ve accumulated over the holidays, and shed the logy feeling brought on by holiday over-eating by getting yourself revved up with a useful, but not particularly difficult, task. (For example, if you’re a writer, you might consider warming up after Christmas by writing an article on beating the holiday blues.) It doesn’t hurt to do some light exercise and get yourself moving again. The hardest step is always the first one.

Set Reasonable Goals and Focus on Achieving Them

All right: You’ve gotten through the holidays. You’ve prevented yourself from venting in a way that will look passive-aggressive. You’ve gotten organized and you’re warmed up mentally and physically. So now what? Well, as a famous man once said, “Without a plan, there’s no attack. Without attack, there’s no victory.” You need to sit down and set specific goals. The problem of “terminal vagueness” — wishing, wanting, or longing for something, with no realistic plan toward achieving that goal — is pervasive in society. It’s not enough to know that you desire something. You have to sit down and assess, honestly, what is required to get it. Only when you understand the specifics can you formulate a plan and then execute that plan.

Setting reasonable goals and going after them gives you something positive to anticipate. It gives you purpose. Most importantly, it fills your mind with productive thoughts rather than depressing distractions. Instead of dwelling on what makes you unhappy, you are focused on what will make you feel fulfilled and achieved. That’s a formula for a great new year… and one that each of us can follow.

If the holidays have you down, if the post-holiday blues have set in, don’t just read these words. Make an honest attempt to put them into practice. You’ll be better off for it.

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