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Beating the post-holiday blues

For some people, these first weeks of January are filled  with sadness, stress and unexplained anxiety – the so-called “post-holiday blues”. PHOTO | FILE
For some people, these first weeks of January are filled with sadness, stress and unexplained anxiety – the so-called “post-holiday blues”. PHOTO | FILE 

The holidays are over and most of us have returned to our usual routines. However, not everyone is finding it easy to go back to their day- to-day lives. For some, these first weeks of January are filled with sadness, stress and unexplained anxiety – the so-called “post-holiday blues”.

What causes the post-holiday blues?

  • Typical sources of post-holiday blues include:
  • The stress and demands of going back to work.
  • Fatigue: getting back to early morning rituals after weeks of lazing around can lead to fatigue.
  • Financial stress: especially for those with school going children – sometimes one may feel that they cannot cope with the demands placed upon them.
  • The inability to be with one’s family and friends. Most of us only spend time with the extended family during the holidays. Leaving them can be stressful.

What are symptoms of post-holiday blues?

  • Unexplained moodiness (This is short-lived. If persistent, one needs to be assessed for clinical depression/mood disorder).
  • Sleep problems such as insomnia or over-sleeping.
  • Some people experience persistent physical symptoms like headaches.
  • Some people take to excessive alcohol drinking or binge eating.
  • Ongoing fatigue.

How can post-holiday blues be managed?

The following tips can help reduce the stress and anxiety that occurs after the holiday season:

  • Pace yourself: As you get back to your daily rituals at home and work, set realistic goals for yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle – you will overwhelm yourself (and worsen your mental state). Be realistic about what you can and cannot do (and make it clear to those around you).
  • Prioritise: You don’t have to tackle everything all at once. Make a list and prioritise the important activities —this will help your life more manageable.
  • Delegate: Do not try and do everything yourself. Let others share the responsibilities of post-holiday tasks. This will take the pressure off you.
  • Stop “over-reminiscing” about the holiday activities: The holidays are over – move on. Thinking about them constantly and wishing that you could go back there will only worsen your blues.
  • Find something to keep you busy: If you find yourself lonely because you have had to leave your loved ones behind after the holiday season (or because you are a stay at home parent who has to deal with an empty house after their children and spouse leave everyday), find an activity to keep you busy – consider volunteer jobs and sports.
  • Try something new – if you enjoy it, it will definitely improve your mood.
  • Be careful what you put into your body: Limit your consumption of food and alcohol — do not use them to “comfort” you or ‘ake away your blues. Alcohol only worsens feelings of depression (and can lead to dependency) and binge eating leads to weight gain.
  • Avoid the blame game: Financial concerns are the chief causes of stress in January. If you spent too much during the holiday, do not overwhelm yourself (or your partner) with feelings of guilt. Make a financial plan and budget with the remainder of your resources.
  • Make time for yourself: Take time do things which you enjoy.
  • Get enough rest: Sleep and rest will rejuvenate you and reduce your stress and anxiety.
  • Share: Tell those around you about what you are feeling and spend time with supportive and caring people.
  • Seek professional help: If you find yourself overwhelmed by stress or anxiety seek professional counselling. A counsellor will guide you on how to deal with your challenges.
  • Go outdoors: Regular exposure to sunshine and the outdoors has been known to improve ones’ mood. Take time to get out of the office (for example at lunchtime) and go for a walk. You will probably find that your mind is clearer and you will be able to focus better after your break.
  • Medication: If you are suffering from a mood disorder/depression, you will probably need the help of some medication to get you back on track. Talk to your doctor (psychiatrist) about your best drug option.
  • Young ones: Children and teenagers may find it difficult to adjust after a long and enjoyable holiday. Be patient with them and help them get back into a normal routine.

Not everyone will understand

Not everyone will be sympathetic to your post-holiday blues. Some family members (even your spouse), friends and work colleagues may think you are just being whiny and spoiled and may dismiss your issues. This does not mean that your feelings are not real. However, even if they do not understand, do not let out your frustration on the people around you.

Although, it will take some time and effort, you will get over your post-holiday blues. If the people around you are aggravating you, take some time away from them then come back and deal with them later.

Can post-holiday blues turn into depression? 

Yes, it can. Although it is not common, people with pre-existing mood disorders or those known to have suffered depression previously can slip back into depression if they lack a good support system.

Often people with depression withdraw from activities of daily living, have a persistent low mood (some even have unexplained crying spells), irritability, inability to focus/concentrate, lack of sex drive, sleep problems, alcohol abuse and there have been known cases of self-harm and suicide.