Whew — you made it through the chaos of the holidays. The frenzied pace of the festive season has suddenly slowed, and it’s back to normal life. You might’ve expected a feeling of relief, but instead, you feel a little off.
It’s completely normal to experience a post-holiday funk. In fact, research suggests that there’s a pattern: Mental health challenges that decrease around the holidays tick back up in the weeks that follow.
So what could be going on? Well, a couple of things. For one, your calendar has likely cleared up. You might’ve spent the past two months shopping for gifts and visiting loved ones. You may have even learned some new recipes.
Then, poof! New Year’s Day passes, and it’s back to the usual routines. “Many of us plan all year to spend precious time with loved ones,” says Giselle Alexander, LCSW, a licensed therapist and AbleTo program advisor. “Once the holidays are over, it can be hard for people to find something else to look forward to.”
Add to that the mixed emotions of the season. There can be lots of joy around traditions. But the holidays can also bring grief and heartache. Maybe your relationships are strained. Not to mention any pressure you might feel to set goals for the new year. All together, it can be a real whirlwind.
How to soothe your post-holiday blues
Finding joy in the post-holiday season is possible. Part of it is about shifting your mindset. But it’s also about leaning into habits that light you up inside.
Below, you’ll find 9 ideas to lift your mood. Try one or all to help kick the funk.
Shift your mindset
- Look inward. Our thoughts, emotions, and actions are all linked. Being more aware of how you’re feeling can reveal triggers that impact your mood. For example, you might worry about not being able to see loved ones until next winter. But in reality, you might be able to visit in the spring. Catching these faulty thinking patterns is the first step to changing them. AbleTo’s 3Cs Journal can guide you through the whole process. Write down any bummer thoughts that cross your mind. Note what you were doing when they bubbled up. Notice what you were feeling in your body. Then look for patterns. “It becomes easier to spot how it’s all connected,” says Alexander. “From there, you can unpack it.”
- Don’t beat yourself up. The holidays are a time to indulge. Maybe you’ve been eating or drinking more than normal. Or maybe you went a little wild with the online shopping. Be gentle with yourself as you get back to your day-to-day routine. Positive self-talk is a great mental health tool. Greet yourself with the same compassion you’d show a friend.
- Channel gratitude. Studies have shown that thinking back on happy memories can bust stress. What holiday moments are you thankful for? Were you gifted a pair of cozy socks you love? What about the feeling when you saw the neighbor’s holiday lights for the first time? You can use AbleTo’s Freewrite Journal to keep a log. (Pro tip: Pair it with the Habit Tracking tool to make it part of your daily routine.)
Build positive habits
- Focus on the present. While tapping into past joy can boost well-being, dwelling too much on days gone can bring you down. “When you’re focused on the past or the future, you might overlook good things going on around you,” explains Alexander. Mindfulness can help us stay in the moment. It spurs us to notice all of our senses. And it prompts us to observe our thoughts without judgment. Try one of AbleTo’s mini meditations to start a practice of your own.
- Limit your news intake. Staying informed is key. But a steady stream of stressful headlines can take a huge toll on our mental health. Consider aiming for 30 minutes per day max. That includes all forms of media. You might want to turn off breaking news alerts. If your phone has the option to set app limits, add one as a guardrail. If you doomscroll into the wee hours of the night, take a social media break — even just for a day or two.
- Grow your social circle. The holidays and weeks that follow might feel heavy because loved ones have passed or simply live far away. But you can take steps to meet new people who bring you comfort and joy. (And vice versa!) You might join a group that taps into one of your hobbies. Or give your time to a local charity that works on a cause you care about deeply. In both cases, you’re not only building community, but nurturing a personal passion that you can return to time and time again.
Take small steps toward change
- Clean out clutter. The holidays tend to be a time of excess. Set aside some time to create a calm home by getting rid of things you no longer need. Really get in the back of those drawers, under the bed, and into the crannies of your closet. Then you can donate anything you don’t want (that’s still in good condition, of course) to a local charity. By making room in your physical space, you’ll also be giving yourself more mental space, too.
- Seek more joy. It can be tempting to hide under the covers until the post-holiday funk passes. But you can take some control in beating back the blues by doing things that make you feel good. It sounds simple, but it can be tough when we’re not feeling perky. Take a few minutes to jot down a list of hobbies you love or things want to try. (This is another time the Freewrite Journal might be handy.) You might read a chapter of a new book. Or take a walk outside. Bottom line? Having ideas written down ahead of time means you don’t have to muster as much thought and energy in moments you might not be feeling your best.
- Set SMART goals. The old-school way of making resolutions sets us up to fail. That’s because we often make big promises that lack plans. A better idea? Set goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. AbleTo’s SMART Goals journal can walk you through the process. Don’t forget to pin down your why. You’ll use that intention to motivate you, so it has to be true to you — not someone else.
Find a little light every day
This time of year is tough for so many of us. When you allow yourself to recognize those funky feelings, you can start to move through them. You can even find ways to weave moments of joy into your routine.
And if you’re feeling stuck, know that AbleTo has your back. You may be eligible to work with a caring coach or licensed therapist. Explore your options to find the right program for you.
By Katie Nave
Katie Nave is a writer and mental health advocate living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been featured in publications including Newsweek, Glamour, Business Insider, and Motherly. She has served as a producer for the National Women’s March and worked with organizations like Girls Inc. and CancerCare.
Clinically reviewed by Sarah Dolling, LPC, Clinical Content Producer at AbleTo.
Photo by gpointstudioz/iStock. Individuals in photographs do not represent AbleTo participants.
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