12 Jan 4 Tips to Get Through the Post Holiday Slump in 2024
By Barbara Larson, LCSW and Julie Marshall, LCSW
The holidays are over, it’s back to school or work, you are totally down in the dumps and you just want to pull the covers back over your head and you don’t know why. And who can blame you? It’s cold, gray, and overall bleh outside. The sun is setting VERY early and the days feel like they are dragging on. Guess what, this is normal. You have the post-holiday blues.
What Are the Post-Holiday Blues? They refer to the short-lived mental distress, anxiety, and sadness that often arises after the holidays. This slump can hit hard after a period of intense emotion and stress. Similar to post-vacation syndrome, post-holiday blues share many of the same characteristic symptoms of an anxiety or mood disorder: insomnia, low-energy, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and anxiousness. The holiday season—from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day—can be a joyful time for many people, but once the festivities wind down, sadness and loneliness can creep in. It’s an idea known as the post-holiday blues ( aka winter blues).
Even if your holidays weren’t so merry and bright, the brain exaggerates the realities of day-to-day life, making the return to the mundane seem disproportionately more anxiety-inducing and depressing than it actually is. It’s common for people to experience a letdown which is usually not long-lasting, with most people returning to normal functioning after a short time of returning to their usual routine. In general, post-holiday blues will wear off over time. It usually takes a few days, but in extreme cases, the mood can last for several weeks before wearing off.
* If this state of mind intensifies or you begin to feel Depressed, you might be experiencing “Seasonal Affective Disorder” also known as seasonal depression. (read here to learn more about SAD: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder)*
Below are 4 Therapist-approved tips to get you through the winter blues:
1. Quality sleep, regular exercise, and a healthy diet are recommended to boost mood and manage low mood symptoms.
Between late-night festivities, sugary snacks and long to-do lists, these practices often fall to the wayside during the holiday season. Re-establishing them as a regular part of your routine is essential for getting back on track if you’re struggling emotionally.
When it comes to building (or re-building) an exercise routine in 2024, try to make it fun! If you are a regimented person, you can come up with a routine or if you are more in-the-moment, try something random. The point is to move more than you do now. Below are some ideas of ways to get moving this winter.
- Impromptu dance party- even if it’s a party of one
- Jumping jacks – no equipment necessary and gets the blood flowing
- A structured fitness routine- if you are of the regimented ilk
- Bundled up walks/jogs- put on that parka and hit the pavement!
- Play a video game that gets you up and moving
- Go for an indoor swim
- Try out that new gym with the New Year New You special
- Stretch it out and loosen your tight muscles
2. Schedule enjoyable activities.
Make plans with friends, do something for fun. This will give you something to look forward to and prevent you from isolating yourself. If you are the sentimental type, you can try treating the blues by sharing experiences with family and friends or looking at photos and memories.
Some New Jersey ideas for social activities include:
Outdoor: ice skating, skiing, sleigh riding, snowboarding, snowtubing, snowball fights, bundled-up walks, sightseeing, sitting by a firepit with friends.
Indoor ideas: ice skating, bowling, baking/cooking, movie night, game night, indoor skiing, swimming, spa, trying new (or revisiting favorite) restaurants, museums, browsing shops, join a reading club, craft, indoor skydiving, indoor rock climbing, laser tag, mini golf, arcade, aquarium.
3. Let there be light
Sunlight and natural light (with protection from UV rays) has a positive effect on our emotional wellbeing. Safe exposure to sunlight releases a chemical in our brains called Serotonin. Serotonin is a mood-boosting neurotransmitter that brings a sense of calm and happiness. In the darker months of winter, we are all exposed to less light since the sun goes down earlier and we might have little time if any to capture it. Think going to work while it is still dark out, then going into an office, then back home with maybe one hour of sunlight before it gets dark again.
A few light solutions to help your mood in the darker months:
- Vitamin D supplement: It is common to have a slight Vitamin D deficiency. This is especially true when there is less sunlight. Vitamin D helps our serotonin production. With the guidance of your general practitioner, you can ask for a Vitamin D supplement regimen.
- A “Happy Light”: Did you know that there are specific lights to help with the lack of natural sunlight? These lights, often referred to as “happy lights”, are scientifically made to produce the effective dose of lux (a measurement of light) needed per day in as little as 30 minutes.
- Become a short-term snowbird : If you can swing it, take a trip somewhere it is warmer and brighter. Even if the trip is for a short period of time, it can temporarily break you out of the day in and day out experience of gray skies.
4. Be good to yourself.
Post-holiday blues are not forever. Don’t give yourself a hard time if you are not feeling your best and be patient and give yourself time to recover. It’s important not to confuse holiday blues with clinical depression. .Clinical depression is a disorder that may need to be treated with therapy and medication. The holiday blues could need something as simple as a good listener. Clinical depression, however, can be triggered in a number of ways, not just after the holidays. If you still aren’t looking forward to upcoming events, or you continue to remember the holidays with sadness rather than fondness, it’s time to talk to a mental health professional. Trained therapists will be able to help you through the winter/post-holiday blues, seasonal depression, Clinical Depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you are in New Jersey and would like a consultation with one of our therapists, please reach out!
About the Writers
Barbara Larson, LCSW and Julie Marshall, LCSW work for Verne Psychotherapy and Wellness LLC is a private therapy practice in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. Together, Barbara and Julie have over 50 years of clinical experience as therapists! They specialize in treating young adults with depression, anxiety, mood disorders and more.
Verne has multiple therapists with a wide range of expertise treating anxiety, depression, trauma, and beyond. Verne accepts people of all cultural, racial, and sexual backgrounds. We serve clients ages 12 to 65+. We have an in-person office in Montclair, New Jersey and also can see patients virtually. To get matched with one of our therapists, please call our office at 862-330-1727 ext 3