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Family Files

Fighting the Post-Holiday Blues

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The flurry of wrapping paper has settled, the holiday meal leftovers are a memory, decorations are packed away, New Year's resolutions have been made and broken, and family and friends are already back to their normal routines. Starting before Thanksgiving, there is such a huge build-up of excitement and activity, preparing for the holidays. We all have expectations - some of them unrealistic - of how perfect everything will be, and we work very hard at achieving that idealistic holiday. But when the holidays conclude, some people experience a huge letdown that can result in feelings of sadness that is commonly referred to as the "Post-Holiday Blues." Besides unmet holiday expectations, there are many reasons that create this condition including: guilt from overindulging in food and alcohol, stress from overspending, difficult family relationships, physical and mental exhaustion, grief due to the memories of loved ones who have passed on, loneliness when friends and family return home, and facing the remainder of winter without another extended holiday until Spring. For older adults who are more isolated, the holidays can be full of activities that are a welcome distraction in their lives, but contribute to the blues when they return to a less eventful schedule.

So now what? There are many things we can do to prevent those blues after the holidays.

  • Have something planned for after the holidays and into the wintertime. Get-togethers with friends, a trip, a fun class, a 5K run/walk – it doesn't matter what it is, as long as it is something that you are looking forward to.
  • Take care of yourself. Follow a healthy diet, exercise, and take a moment each day to relax and be mindful of the here and now.
  • Volunteer or just help someone else. Giving your time to help others is a wonderful way to redirect your focus on others and off yourself. Helping others can create positive feelings and really give you an emotional boost!
  • De-clutter your surroundings. Excessive clutter can cause feelings of stress and a constant subconscious feeling that something needs to be done. Take the time during those dreary winter days to start cleaning up and moving some things out that are broken, unused, duplicates, or that you just don't need. You'll be amazed at how "free" you can feel after de-cluttering.
  • Start a new hobby. It would be a great opportunity to take up a hobby that you have always wanted to try. Planning ahead and having the class scheduled or supplies on hand will help you stay on task and follow through with carrying it out.

Sometimes those "blues" can develop into depression. Symptoms such as deep sadness, insomnia, irritability, eating too much or not enough, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, lack of pleasure from formerly enjoyable activities - that interfere with normal everyday functioning and last for more than two weeks could indicate clinical depression. In that case, consulting with your doctor would be highly recommended.