This article is the fifth in a series about post-holiday depression.
Q: What are some effective strategies for overcoming post-holiday blues?
A: An article from Mother Nature Network.com states people will cope better after the holiday season if they expect some degree of letdown. Predictability helps people get prepared for what is coming. Knowing there will be a significant letdown should lead people into planning ahead.
Besides the weather obstacle in the new year, the abrupt change from lots of activity to no activity depresses most people. After the initial relief from catching up on rest and returning to normal diets rather than overeating, people have nothing to look forward to. They need to make plans and have events and goals. These plans can be anything from training for a 5K to having lunch with a friend, catching up on reading the novels laid aside for the holidays, and planning a weekend trip for February or March.
Individuals also need to push themselves to exercise. Inside or outside can be coordinated according to the weather. Even if people feel too lethargic to initiate contacts with family and friends, they should make conscious efforts to do so anyway. There is no need to over-schedule in a repeat of holiday seasons, but some interaction will help overcome inactivity and apathy.
Belinda Munoz, social change activist, foundation director and mother, presents her ideas for getting over post-holiday blues. She divides her list into several categories. First are solo activities. Included in these are meditation, taking naps, allowing oneself to cry it out, practicing yoga or some kind of exercise, and retreating into a peaceful and silent place.
In terms of social needs, she recommends taking a break from social media and connecting with others in person. She also recommends giving a coworker a ride home, calling a friend with whom there has been no contact for a while, or striking up a conversation with a stranger sitting next to you at lunch.
Munoz also suggests doing for others and forgetting oneself. An example would be performing an anonymous act of charity. She also suggests taking someone for a drive, doing something different and trying a new activity. She suggests getting outdoors. A walk or a nature hike with a friend is good. Depending on where people live, they can watch the sunrise, go for a swim or work in the yard.
Regarding the arts, individuals can take photos, listen to music or sing and dance. Children love music. Pampering oneself includes massages, facials, pedicures and manicures, trying a new hairdo or color, and starting a new healthy habit.
Taking a class is a good endeavor. With the proliferation of virtual classes, education is available everywhere. Another less appealing goal is to declutter one's home. That task would entail throwing out old things no one else would like, putting recyclables out to be picked up and taking clothes to Goodwill.
The final area for alleviating post-holiday blues is to do things for others. Examples include visiting sick friends and bringing food, delivering meals-on-wheels, volunteering at soup kitchens, walking the neighbors' dog when they are on vacation, sending money to the many charitable organizations for helping feed children, caring for terminally ill children or any other charity that provides services.
Different writers contributed to a website called Wikihow.com in an article titled "How to Cope With Post Holiday Syndrome." Reflecting on past years and what helped them get over the slump might help individuals. Another suggestion is for persons to look at their own attitudes and see if they are positive or negative thinkers. In other words, is the glass half-full or half-empty? People can develop positive self-talk and consciously change their negativity into positive thinking and find positive things to anticipate.
Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of life, individuals need to make plans to change those things they don't like. They can begin by putting away Christmas decorations, putting away cards, finishing leftovers and moving on. Then there are the New Year's resolutions to ponder. Unrealistic goals need to be modified into reasonable goals. Setting too many goals or unachievable goals will simply add to the post-holiday blues.
WebMD has an interesting slant provided by Susan Battley, Psy D, Ph.D., who says she believes in BAG -- Big Audacious Goal. She believes three should be the maximum. Here are examples. People can learn a new language. Individuals can change careers, remembering times when they were happy with work. Volunteering is always uplifting. Persons can tutor students, take goodies to doctors' offices or others who have provided programs or training for jobs. Making more money by starting a second business is a BAG. Joining a dating service is a BAG for singles.
Lastly, planting a tree is a good idea if living in an area with few forests. For all the above BAGS, it is important to lay out the steps necessary and the obstacles anticipated. One good way to stay on task is to do the BAG with a buddy. Individuals can do separate or combined goals. The object is to keep one another motivated.
* Next week's article will continue with strategies for coping with post-holiday blues.
Judy Caprez is associate professor of social work at Fort Hays State
University. Send your questions in care of the department of
sociology and social work.