The holidays are full of food, fabulous decorations and time spent with family, and friends. Then, suddenly, it all stops. January rolls around and you are hit with a “let down” feeling. However, celebrating life and each other does not have to stop with the end of the holiday season.
Have a family meeting and come up with a new, crazy celebration and invite friends or family members to celebrate the new tradition. Let your kids come up with ideas on what you will do. Make it simple by having a one-pot meal and have your guests bring dessert. Enjoy a classic movie night with just your family and serve popcorn and ice cream sundaes. Tell stories to your kids about when you and your spouse were kids. Look to your favorite no-stress ways to make memories together.
Being thankful is often connected with Thanksgiving. Since that holiday is over, it is easy to forget about gratefulness. Model a grateful attitude for your children and talk about being content with what they have. Each member of your family can list all the things and people for which they are grateful. Put all of your notes in a jar and revisit them when you need to recenter.
Make Your Own Sunshine
Realistically, shorter days and less sunshine do contribute to postholiday blues for some people. “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real condition in which depression grows with darkness,” says Wozniak. Be intial about getting your daily dose as much as possible.
Allow yourself a day off to putter around the house. Take time to put your feet up and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. Give yourself permission to relax. “Without some rest periods, individuals are more susceptible to emotional tension and physical illness which often occurs ‘after the storm,’” reminds Doppelt.
Feed the Birds
Decorate tree branches in your yard. On a branch, your kids can hang pinecones slathered with a mixture of peanut butter, margarine and bird seed. Then snuggle with your kids inside and to watch birds come and feed. If you have a budding artist in the family, have him draw the local birds. Get a book from the library or go online to identify different birds.
Walk, Dance or Run
After all the delicious food of the holidays, you may be feeling like you overindulged. Take your kids and go for a walk.“Research demonstrates that exercise lifts mood if done regularly, even when you don’t feel like it,” reminds Wozniak. Walk briskly while your kids ride bicycles. Change it up a little by turning on loud music inside and playing freeze dance with your kids.
Study winter and all its aspects with your kids. Your local library is a good source for winter picture books. Picture books are a delight to study regardless of your children’s age.
Hibernation is a fun topic to study with your children, as a variety of both warm and cold blooded animals hibernate. Not all animals hibernate, and there are degrees of hibernation. If you have older children, have them find pictures of the different animals and make a chart.
Snowflakes are as unique as your children. Every child that can use scissors can make paper snowflakes. Discuss individuality and snowflakes with your kids. See how many different ways your child can make a snowflake and then decorate your house. Construction paper, glitter and gel pens can add to their creations.
Investigate books on weather. Read children’s poetry about the weather and have your children close their eyes as you read to them. Ask them what they see in their minds.
During the holidays, our homes are decorated with bright colors and strands of lights. After the holidays, our homes can be bleak and barren. Buy a bulb kit that can be grown in the house. Get your kids involved with planting and watering the plant. Paper whites, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and amaryllis bulbs kits are available in most discount stores.
Start a New Hobby
Doppelt shares that sometimes, not having a pleasant task or interest to look forward to may lead to depression. Start a new series of books. Look into cooking classes or whatever inspires you. “Choose one realistic goal and begin slowly,” says Doppelt. If writing has always been a latent passion, buy yourself an attractive journal and start.
Resolve to Not Make Resolutions
The media talks a lot about New Year’s Resolutions and normally, these resolutions are started out of guilt. Wozniak does not recommend resolutions but suggests rather New Year’s affirmations. “Write down what your best friend would say about you and put it on your mirror or write that you CAN accept yourself as you are today,” she says.
When to Seek Help
“If your sadness really disrupts your daily life or if you have very negative thoughts of doing things that would be harmful, call a therapist or doctor,” advises Wozniak.
More Ideas for Coping with Post-Holiday Blues
During the holidays, it seems we don’t have much time to even think, much less do something for ourselves to gain peace of mind. Slowing down is NOT an option; we operate on pure adrenaline. Then the New Year rolls around and it is all over. Our brains and bodies are all of sudden presented with our normal routine without the additional hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s not hard to understand why some people deal with the “post holiday blues,” which may manifest itself as depression, anxiety and/or exhaustion. Think you may be at risk? Consider some of the following suggestions:
- Get excited about the idea of new beginnings. The exciting part of a new chapter is that we write it ourselves! Embrace this thought—as authors of our story, we decide the direction and how it ends.
- Set short-term, but achievable goals. Reflecting on the previous year and decide how you want the following year to be different. Think about the first few months after the New Year and decide what you want to achieve during this time. And, once you meet your goals, celebrate! Small successes are definitely worth celebrating.
- Change up your routine. “Mixing it up” a little bit is something that could help with the transition. Routine is beneficial because it helps provide structure and stability, but it often becomes boring.
- Preserve memories. Preserving memories is an important part of the transition, and I encourage people to get oldfashioned on this one. Preserving the feel-good memories of the previous year will help you get started on the right foot for the New Year.
I encourage each and every one of you to not get bogged down in the hustle and bustle of the holidays to where you forget the meaning of the season. However, if, come January, you find yourself coming down from the holiday high, don’t hesitate to try some of these suggestions to help with your transition. Also, keep in mind that there is no shame in seeking professional help if you just can’t seem to kick the post holiday blues.
Joshua Nichols is a marital and family therapist at the Alpha and Omega Family Center in Oklahoma City. Jan Udlock is a homeschooling mom of 5 and a freelance writer.