Healing the Post-Holiday Hangover Blues

feeling depressed around holidaysDo you ever experience a post-holiday depression or emotional hangover?
This year, maybe the holidays met your expectations, exceeded them or depleted you. Whether you’re a lover of the holiday season or you thrash through it painfully, you may experience a dark-mood day or dark-mood week that follows the end of the season.

This is normal…and there’s plenty you can do about it!

Why does this happen and what can you do about it?

First…a personal story…

Two days before Christmas, I attended the funeral of my amazing and beloved uncle who died from pancreatic cancer. He was profoundly loved and admired. I could write many posts about his impact on the hearts and minds of countless people (including me!) – but I’ll save those words for another day. I digress… Following the funeral, I was talking with a family friend who was discussing some wonderful new and unexpected things that were happening professionally for her and her husband. With a big smile, she said, “What a difference a year can make!” It was at this moment that I knew I had to write this post. For her and her husband, the holidays this year (versus last year) are a marker of progress, joy, abundance, connection and hope (I couldn’t be happier for them!). However, for so many others, the holidays are a marker of loss, lack and loneliness.

To be sure, my holidays will never be the same, now that I lost my uncle. I will feel his absence always, but especially at this time of year when he isn’t walking in the door wearing his signature cowboy hat and giving me a big bear hug, making his delicious gravy, or raising his cynical eyebrow in irreverence at some benign comment from a member of my family. Yes, what a difference a year makes.


Why the HOLIDAY BLUES happen: The holidays are a reminder of time passing, change taking place, the losses and gains of years past. During the holidays you are literally surrounded by expectations of how you are supposed to feel, what you are supposed to do and what you are supposed to want. If you don’t feel that this is “the most wonderful time of the year” or you don’t have access to buying extravagant presents or maybe you don’t want to go to your company’s holiday party – you may feel like something is wrong with you. You may feel isolated and alone. Now, add in the lack of sunlight and you’ve got the perfect recipe for feeling blue. You may think you are the only one who feels this way. But, YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE!

Why the POST-HOLIDAY HANGOVER happens: Whatever happened during the holiday season is now in the past, but you still reverberate with what could have been or what was that is now over. Either way, you’re back to the regular routine, the days are dark, and your mood might be too.

More importantly, here’s what to do about it.

Here’s some simple and effective ways to care for yourself in the weeks that follow the holidays …

  • Light – get a light box, light more candles, buy twinkle lights for inside your space, or if you notice you are deeply affected by lack of sunlight buy a light box. It all helps!
  • Connection – Don’t hibernate solo. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good (not the ones who hold you to some societal expectation of how you are supposed to feel).
  • Movement – A sedentary body flattens mood like nothing else. Make it a point to move every day, even if only for a few minutes every hour. Remember this post?
  • Make – Create something from nothing because it’s fun and it’s good for your brain. Try a new recipe, buy kinetic sand and build a castle, doodle, build a spaceship out of Legos. It doesn’t matter what you create – it’s all about the process of creativity that lifts your mood.
  • Reward yourself – Treat yourself with small things – things to look forward to later in the day or later in the week. Pick an activity that you like to do – it could be a movie you want to see, a museum you haven’t been to in a while or something as simple as a chai tea latte. Use your reward to have a something to look forward to and to get you out of the house, doing something you enjoy. Fun, right?!
  • Clear your Clutter – Your physical clutter impacts your emotional well-being. Choose a messy or over-packed closet in your home or your office and take some time to purge and reorganize. It’s amazing how effective this can be in relieving your emotional clutter. Warning: after doing one closet and experiencing the effects, you may just find you’ll want to de-clutter your whole home!
  • Quiet Time – Stop busying up your schedule and take a few moments every day to slow down. This tool is a perfect activity to accompany you during your moments of quiet. Try it out…I think you’ll be glad you did!
  • Shake up your Routine – Doing things the same way every day can lead to monotony and depression. Try changing one small thing every day – take a different route to work, use a colored marker instead of a pen, wear something you haven’t worn in a while, try a different workout or sign up for a new class, listen to a podcast or a band you’ve never listened to before, or use lime instead of lemon. So many options and so simple. Shake it up and see what happens!
  • Volunteer – giving feels good and creates connection with others who have similar views and passions. Choose an organization whose mission resonates with you and go for it!
  • Eat Smart – eat dark leafy greens and cut down on sugars and refined flours, which give your system a high-low spike that negatively impacts your mood (and depletes your energy).
  • Sleep & Hydration – as basic as this one may sound, getting ample sleep and staying hydrated is absolutely vital for your mental health (and physical health). These are non-negotiables.
  • Use your Toolkit – If you haven’t yet, skim this post for help with building in moments of feeling good every day. This is a great way to shift your mood and have a tool that lasts a lifetime.These suggestions are for how to change your mood in the post-holiday season. However, if your mind, body and heart aren’t shifting and you’re spiraling into more dark days, take note and take it seriously. The most courageous thing you can do to care for yourself is to tune into your whole self and get support when you need it.P.S. The post-holiday hangover is a common response to the hype of the holiday season. Hang in there and use these tools to help give you a boost. See if you can have fun with it!