With the presents opened, the party over and nothing left but the mess left to clean up, the post-holiday quiet can be a little unsettling. The days are short, the dark nights are long, and before you know it taxes will be due. But take heart. The post-holiday blues are common but they’re not inescapable. It’s time for some fun diversions.
1. If you’re depressed, get help
Before we talk about exploring a bunch of fun and silly diversions to get our minds off the post-holiday letdown, let’s acknowledge that not all holiday blues are fleeting or inconsequential. Depression is an illness that does respond to treatment, but, unfortunately, ignoring or denying it won’t make it go away. The Mayo Clinic lists symptoms, including changes in appetite, restlessness, fatigue, a sense of hopelessness, loss of interest in sex or fun or the company of other people, trouble sleeping, suicidal thoughts and other symptoms — even physical pain.
Depression can be treated effectively. Even when life is throwing big hardballs, it’s important to distinguish between understandable sadness and the illness known as depression.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help, at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); press 1 for the Veterans’ Crisis Line.
- Talk with a trusted friend, doctor, clergy member or mental health specialist.
2. Hide at the movies
If your blues are the fleeting, boredom-inspired kind, one time-tested cure is to escape at the movies. Get a big tub of popcorn, scrunch down in your seat, and leave reality for a while. There’s no better time for a trip to the movies than at year’s end. The holiday season is traditionally the highest-grossing time for theaters, so plenty of new releases are out, joining the competition for the 89th annual Academy Awards, on Feb. 26.
Or tune into some great entertainment at home. The New York Post has six suggestions for small-screen offerings to help you over the post-holiday slump.
3. Shop after-Christmas sales
If you have the stomach, the wallet and the self-discipline for it, a little retail therapy might be in order. After-Christmas sales are particularly good for deals on bedding, electronics, exercise equipment and cold-weather accessories and gear.
4. Return gifts
Sometimes, despite the givers’ best intentions, a gift fails in a big way to hit the mark. The time your sweetie gave you an automotive vacuum cleaner for Christmas, for instance? You can’t return a gift like that; it would hurt your sweetie’s feelings. But when you can — Wrong size? You’d prefer another color? — get out there and get it over with. Maybe do a little window shopping while you’re at it. Or make a holiday of it: Stop for a cup of coffee or meet a friend for lunch. Before you know it you’ll forget you had the blues.
5. Give the Christmas tree the boot
You’ll feel better — guaranteed — when you’ve got the Christmas tree out of the house. Carry it out to the curb, repack the ornaments for next year and vacuum up the pine needles left behind. Or, if you’re feeling thrifty, cut the tree up into firewood. If you’re an eco-warrior, mulch it into the garden or recycle it. If you’re crafty, transform it into garden path edging or stick a branch in the fish bowl. Read “Don’t Toss Your Christmas Tree: Try These 8 ‘Green’ Options” to learn how.
6. Organize a polar bear plunge
Some brave souls like a dunk in the sea or a nearby lake in subzero temperatures on New Year’s Day. It revs up the spirits (reportedly) and often is a fundraising event for charity. But you can beat the crowds, gather your friends and take an ice-cold dunk right now.
7. Send New Year’s cards
For all those of us who’ve been too hopelessly overwhelmed to send out Christmas cards this year, here’s the chance to catch up: Use the post-holiday lull to send Happy New Year cards instead. TinyPrints suggests keeping your message brief and sending more impersonal cards (no family photos) to business associates.
8. Get some exercise
The holiday bingeing on alcohol, heavy foods and sweets has to stop at some point, and there’s a good chance that the overindulging is bringing you down. It’s amazing how much better simply moving will make you feel. Take a long walk, go to the gym or pool, and check into an exercise or yoga class.
9. Play with your kids
Hang out with children — yours or someone else’s — for a wonderful break from adult reality. (You’ll need parental permission if they are not your children, however.) Kids’ goofy little takes on the world lift the spirits and remind us what is and is not important. Life at this level is not all about the grownups: Children need and adore adult attention.
10. Retire your sleep debt
If you aren’t getting between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, you’re not functioning at your best, says Sleep.org, the website of the National Sleep Foundation.
To retire a sleep debt, Sleep.org recommends:
- Slowly change your routine: Get to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you are back on track.
- Set and keep a steady sleeping and waking routine with a regular bedtime and wake time.
- Dial back the caffeine and alcohol. “Alcohol may make you fall asleep quickly, but you don’t get into the deeper stages, so you end up sleep deprived,” Michael Breus, author of “Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health,” tells WebMD.
- Exercise vigorously and regularly. “People’s mental health tended to demonstrably improve if they were physically active,” The New York Times writes of a review by scientists of studies on the topic. Simple brisk walking or jogging is all it takes, although other activities are great too.
- Slow down before bedtime. Have a hot bath. Withdraw from electronics, including TV and movies, before bedtime. The intense light from electronic devices can cause sleep disruptions (with kids too), making us feel always alert and engaged. Instead, read a good book, snuggle with your sweetheart or sip a cup of warm milk with honey.
There’s no better way to get away from your troubles than to focus on the needs of others. Volunteer for the day or for a few hours, alone or bring your friends or your entire family. Here are four of the many places that help volunteers find organizations that need help:
12. Celebrate another holiday
Christmas may end on Dec. 25 but a slew of other winter holidays are just beginning. To keep up your holiday spirit, consider celebrating:
- Kwanzaa, Dec. 26-Jan. 1. Kwanzaa, celebrated by African-Americans and Africans around the world, focuses on family, culture and community. “Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense,” says the official Kwanzaa website, which tells how and why the holiday is celebrated.
- Hanukkah. Dec. 24-Jan. 1. This Jewish holiday is not a “Jewish Christmas” but an ancient tradition celebrating the victory of a small band of Hebrew activists 2,000 years ago as they resisted laws suppressing the practice of Judaism in the Syrian-ruled land of Israel. Chabad, a Jewish educational organization, tells the story and explains how to celebrate.
13. Get started on your taxes
Taxes! What a sick idea, right? On the face of it, collecting paperwork and filling out tax forms does seem unlikely to boost the spirits. But consider this: How much better are you going to feel when you are finished? A lot! And you’ll feel better still if you are getting a refund.
Do you suffer from a letdown after Christmas or other winter holidays? How do you get recharged? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.