4 strategies for coping with post-holiday let down

If you’re one of those people who live for the joy and mingling of the holidays, you may be ill prepared for the blues that follow the wave of excitement. Sometimes the holidays can stave off feelings of nostalgia and loneliness in addition to past family trauma, but when the final Christmas ornament has been stored and the last holiday outfit packed away, you may struggle with a sense of loss.

A 2015 survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness revealed 64% of people reported experiencing post-holiday blues accompanied by elevated anxiety and stress. Most people who responded to the survey reported that the holidays offered an escape from their normal monotonous life and returning to work after the holidays provoked anxiety and sadness.

Although there are many reasons people struggle with post-holiday let down, among the most common are the time of year, short cold days and long nights, financial stress, overeating, overdrinking, and erratic sleep patterns - all of which affect our mood and ability to cope with stress. The holidays often offer a fantasy escape, with more feel-good television shows and movies and increased outpouring of volunteers donating toys and food to families in need. This may promote a deeper feeling of connection during the holidays, and imagining a more loving, caring world helps people feel better about their life.

If you’re feeling a sense of loss or sadness post-holiday, it’s important to remind yourself that these feelings are normal and common for many people during this season. You are not alone. If you’ve experienced a personal loss, the sense of sadness may deepen more than usual. These four suggestions can help you manage your anxiety and stress.

1. Focus on self-care. Minimize anxiety by getting the proper amount of sleep and drinking more water. Connect with others who lift your spirits and make you feel good about yourself, and schedule quiet time for prayer and meditation. Focus on what you’re putting into your body and mind via music, food, and friends. Listen to calm and restorative music, avoid angry and raging individuals, and learn to cook in the new year.

2. Begin and stick to a movement routine. Make it a point to begin an exercise program for you. Whether walking, biking, or running, start slow and engage in exercise every day as close to the same time each day as possible. Routines give us security and are so important for establishing self-discipline.

3. Set a budget and include rewards. A New Year budget is a wonderful way to boost your feelings of accomplishment and self-respect. When you control your spending and act responsibly, you recognize yourself as emotionally mature and capable. A sense of freedom comes with being fiscally responsible.

4. Learn to say "no" in the New Year. Learning to say no to others who violate your boundaries or values is an important life skill for managing stress and anxiety. When you can say no to others, you find more time to focus on the activities and work that add meaning to your life.

Although post-holiday blues usually pass within 2 to 3 weeks, if you begin feeling worse with more intrusive thoughts that interfere with your normal day, allow yourself the opportunity to talk with a mental health professional. Speaking with a counselor will help change your perspective and maybe even the direction of your life. The New Year is a wonderful time to invest in you and begin to practice healthy habits that will help you feel more confident, secure, and ready to take on new risks to benefit your life.