For many, the holidays are filled with connection, joy, and happy memories. But this is, unfortunately, not always the case for everybody. The holidays can also be a stressful time of year due to financial strain, social pressures, personal expectations, and triggers. The several week period after the holidays can leave you feeling drained, exhausted, and depressed. This year has been especially stressful with the pandemic impacting the ability to connect on a deeper level with loved ones. You may even feel guilty for feeling this way after taking time off work or school for the holidays. This may lead to holding the expectation that you return to work or school with a fresh mindset and a burst of energy, ready to get back to the rat races. However, the holidays can add to our stress levels rather than help us decompress.
There are a lot of contributing factors to this experience, and this will vary person to person. Perhaps you had to see a family member who reminds you of a traumatic experience. Perhaps someone made inappropriate comments about your body or food intake at a family gathering. Perhaps you just lost a loved one. Perhaps you feel pressure due to all the pervasive diet talk that comes up during this time of year. It could be shorter days impacting seasonal depression. It could be a variety of different triggers impacting your mental health.
Whichever trigger resonates with your experience, it is important to be proactive about coping skills to support yourself through this trying time. To match your coping skill to your needs, it will be helpful to identify the trigger to the “post-holiday blues” you are experiencing.
Here are some suggestions for identifying your needs:
- Practice curiosity without judgement when considering what you are needing, feeling, and thinking
- Express your emotions through an expressive medium such as writing or art or music
- Call a close friend or loved one on the phone to process your emotions and gain clarity with support
- Schedule an appointment with your therapist or consider beginning therapy to gain deeper insight
Here are some suggestions for coping with “post-holiday blues:”
- Journal about your favorite memories from this holiday or any holiday
- Write a letter to someone who you shared a positive experience with this holiday or any holiday
- Journal about intentions that you would like to set for yourself for this week, this month, this year
- Do not get hung up on “resolutions” that focus on changing yourself to become “___ enough” (fill in the blank for whichever insecurity resonates with your experience) but work on accepting yourself for who you are, speaking words of kindness to and about yourself and others, and living mindfully in the moment
- Set healthy boundaries in relationships with others by redirecting diet talk, self-deprecating comments, or judgements on self or others. Redirect yourself when you notice that you are participating in this.
- Identify what your top values are and set up an action plan for living in line with your values
- Schedule regular video chat or phone call times with people that you want to connect with
- Limit and be intentional about your social media use to ensure that you are not getting sucked into a “grass is greener” mentality by comparing yourself to others online
And most importantly give yourself grace, compassion, self-care, and a break. Work on validating for yourself that it is okay to take a break to rest and recharge after an emotionally exhausting experience, and the holidays count as one of those experiences. You deserve to receive support from yourself most of all when you are going through depression of any sort and too often, we beat ourselves up for feeling “down,” “blue,” or depressed. It is not your fault that you are feeling this way, and if you need extra support, know that it is healthy and appropriate to seek the support of a professional to sort out what you are going through.
– Alejandra Rose, LMFT