I woke up this morning to my favourite workplace Psychologist, Jennifer Newman. She was talking about the post-holiday blues, which was particularly timely given a) my friend Liam has been bugging me to write about them for the past few days, and b) I think I have them. I thought it was just the result of too much NYE, but even a lightweight like myself couldn’t have been that affected by the “generous” mini-bottle-of-cheap-champagne-with-outrageously-overpriced-ticket.
Ah, validation! Apparently Jan 21st is the most depressing day of the year. Lovely.
So what’s with this general sense of apathy and disorientation? Well, off the top of my head, here’s what’s getting to me at the moment:
- After the best holiday I can remember (although I barely remember it, now…) I’m back to cooking boring food by my lonesome, not seeing my brother for the better part of a year, and middle of the night (6:45am) wake-ups.
- I just checked my Visa statement, confirming that a) ignorance is bliss, and b) next year, we’re doing Secret Santa.
- I’m pretty sure none of clothes fit anymore… I both curse and praise whoever invented tights.
- Thankfully, B.C. has gotten on the “Family Day” train, but it’s still 6+ weeks until the next Stat (How did we survive when we had to wait until Easter?).
- Acknowledging that it’s 2013 is frightening. Life is moving way too quickly for my liking, and when I think about it, it evokes feelings of anxiety and meaninglessness and existential guilt.
- My place is a disaster. I haven’t unpacked yet from my trip home, my (dying) Christmas tree makes me wonder if I’m not yet ready to face the new year, and did I really go through all that wine on my rack?
- Without Christmas, what the heck do I look forward to?
- It’s 4:17pm, and it’s dark out. I had a moment of excitement when I looked at the forecast and it said sun for the next few days, but then I realized it was still set on Kamloops from my holiday. Never-mind, rain it is.
Maybe you can relate to some of these things, maybe not. Either way, here are a few tips that don’t involve sitting in the dark eating discounted Christmas goodies, or resenting your freshly engaged or resolution-happy friends.
1. Acknowledge why you’re feeling down–maybe make a list, like I just did. You’re not alone in feeling this way. Practise self-compassion (ya, ya, broken record…) by reminding yourself that it’s understandable you’re feeling sad/lonely/depressed/anxious/etc. Remind yourself it’s likely a result of external influences–you are not “broken,” you are normal. Acknowledge that the feelings you’re experiencing are transient, and they will come and go. Sit in them and explore them, and do what you can to take care of yourself in that moment (e.g. comforting self-statements, company, exercise, tea)
2. Pay attention to what you ARE grateful for, with a caveat. This is not meant to induce guilt or minimize the negative feelings you are having. Remember, use perspective productively. But, I certainly like to remind myself frequently how grateful I am that I’m alive, able-bodied, physically and cognitively healthy, (relatively) safe, privileged, loved by family and friends, financially secure, survived the apocalypse, etc.
3. Remind yourself you’ve been here before: Unless this was your first holiday season, you’ve likely experienced something similar in past years. Think back to what you found helpful for getting through it, then. If you can’t think of anything, remind yourself that the blues didn’t stick around forever.
4. Plan something to look forward to: Sure, you might not be able to plan a spontaneous trip to Mexico or pressure a couple into having a wedding for your benefit, but plan something (or a couple things) in the next month that you can get pumped for. Maybe you can treat yourself to a day skiing, or a budget road trip with a couple friends. Maybe there’s a show or concert coming to town that you can afford. Maybe you can plan a “Staycation” weekend where you catch up on sleep, read something for pleasure (what?!), and finally put together that IKEA furniture you’ve been avoiding for the past couple weeks. Personally, I like to buy lotto tickets or Scratch-n-Wins when I’m feeling down. I don’t expect to win, but I like the momentary excitement the “scratching” brings (the little things).
5. Pace yourself and prevent burnout: You may not be one of the lucky ones who gets “Family Day.” Pace yourself, avoid filling every night in your calendar, say “No,” plan for unexpected commitments, and try to stay relatively present-focused. When we look to far ahead, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, so take each day, hour, minute at a time.
6. Manage existential anxiety: Bet no other holiday blues-beating lists have this one! An empty calendar, writing “2013,” and not much to look forward to can be pretty ominous, and bring up those “what’s the point” thoughts. Create your own meaning, and practise mindfulness in the face of anxiety and rumination.
7. Resolutions can be positive, but make them realistic: If you were like me and didn’t come close to making new years resolutions, it’s not too late. I mean when you think about it, it’s a little silly that we set one day a year (generally a hungover one, at that) for evaluating all aspects of life and making a plan to revamp our entire existence. If you do decide to make resolutions, make it a dynamic process over a couple of days where you can sleep on them, let ideas saturate, discuss them with your partner/family/friend/therapist, and ensure they’re SMART. Also, ask yourself why you want to make such changes, what you’re hoping they’ll bring you, and how, if you’ve already tried them in the past, you can do something different this time.
Note: If you’re making the resolution for the 17th year in a row, perhaps it’s time to go a different route–acceptance. Maybe learning a new language isn’t as important as you thought it was. Maybe this is your ideal weight. Maybe your social circle is big enough. Or, maybe there’s an in-between of what you’re expecting from yourself and where you are now.
8. De-clutter, make a thrift run, wash and vacuum your car, etc.: After driving the Coquihalla home on the 31st, it looked like I had been mud-bogging. No joke. If I drove a truck, you wouldn’t think twice about it. Going through the car-wash and using the twoonie vacuum were quick avenues to satisfaction. Cleaning and de-cluttering your apartment and taking old clothes to the thrift are other mindless and effective ways of feeling less overwhelmed and more in control.
9. Budget, but still treat yourself here and there: If you’re budgeting, still treat yourself, but appreciate it. Similar to indulging intentionally when you’re on a diet and really savouring it, allow yourself those “treats” that you’ve cut out of your budget. Still treat yourself to that coffee, but maybe not twice a day every day (FYI, 7/11 has $1 coffee on Wednesdays). Still go out with friends, but maybe make another suggestion than Cirque de Soleil or the spot with the $30 cover or $16 drinks.
10. Take steps to feel good about yourself: I made a hair appointment for this weekend. I’m not in desperate need, or anything, but getting my scalp massaged, chatting with Loretta for a couple hours, and leaving feeling attractive always boosts my spirits (and with all the deals out there, it’s pretty affordable). January is also a time where every gym and yoga studio is offering competitive pricing, so take advantage and sign up for a no-obligation trial. Get the free consult with the trainer or the nutritionist, and, if you’re up for it, make a couple change to improve your mental and physical well-being.
11. Commiserate: Kidding, sort of. I know you think nobody wants to be around you when you’re feeling this way, or you don’t have time to be social because you have so much to do. But in actuality, friends and family might share simliar feelings of listlessness, and you’re prob not going to get through the to-do list, anyways, so you may as well fit some social connection in there. If social time usually involves greasy food and beer, and that’s not part of your revamped 2013 plan, have a friend over for tea or go for a walk.