Now that the holiday cheer and merriment that kept you busy from Halloween to New Years is over, you (or a loved one) may be feeling a range of emotions from relief to sadness to fatigue to explainable body aches.
While we expect the holiday season to be busy, somewhat stressful even, we tend to ignore the emotional aftermath, which can leave us navigating unfamiliar, dark territory. Unlike a physical wound where we would apply a bandage, emotional distress can be harder to acknowledge and therefore heal. As humans we also have a propensity to make our emotional wounds worse by discounting them as something else.
Post-holiday blues are unique to everyone. However, when some basic symptoms arise that seem out of the ordinary, you may want to slow down to evaluate why they may be cropping up.
Symptoms may include:
Fatigue or insomnia
Lack of focus or ability to concentrate
Now, if you simply feel off this winter or show any of the above signs, read through the following list to determine what resonates with you. Pick one or two that you can commit to, to help remedy your symptoms.
Be sure you’re maintaining an excellent baseline for your body to function.
Quality sleep (ideally 6.5-9 hours) in a cool, dark room; if this is not possible, carve out a time to take a power nap. Most Americans undervalue sleep, yet if the majority of us would get enough sleep and drink water, our lives would be dramatically different!
Staying hydrated by drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day; set yourself up right by beginning your day (yes, before your coffee), with a large cup of lukewarm, lemon water to get your body hydrated and active, flushing out toxins that have settled while sleeping.
Eating fresh, whole foods; include vegetables with every meal, as well as some healthy fats (nuts, avocado, coconut and extra-virgin olive oil); skip the sugar and processed foods and drinks. The old adage, “you are what you eat,” is scarier today than in any other modern time. Buy organic meats and know the Dirty Dozen list to avoid breaking the bank on fresh produce.
People like to bypass the importance of nutrition and focus on the exercise component. I can’t emphasize it enough that you CANNOT exercise your way out of a bad diet. Those abs truly are made (or lost) in the kitchen.
If this is an area you truly struggle in, I highly suggest you reach to me so that I can help you achieve your body health goals or at the very least outline a plan to help you create healthy eating habits. I have 21-Day Sugar Detox groups monthly or can also coach you one-on-one, digging deeper into the root cause of your health, or lack thereof.
Exercising. This doesn’t have to be intense. Simply start your day with a minimum of 10 minutes of your favorite movements. This could be push-ups in your living room, squats while brushing your teeth, a dance party with your kids, or getting off of the bus or train a stop early to walk to the office, etc. Extra points if you can get outside in natural sunlight while exercising.
Speaking of sunlight, get outside every chance you get. We have a very bad habit of sitting for hours, tucked inside, possibly never seeing the light of day for more than 5 minutes during the winter. By regulating your circadian rhythm, you’ll naturally have a lighter mood. Shoot for 20 minutes outside in the light. Better yet, break up your day with a walk at lunch with your best bud.
Create new routines in your day that provide proper outlets and boundaries to help you thrive, including:
Breath work – most of us take our breath for granted. Take a few minutes out of your day (ideally first thing in the morning or before going to bed) to slow down and pay attention to your breath. Simply breathe deeply in and out of your nose slowly 10 times or better yet meditate for 10 minutes.
Be grateful – express your gratitude by pen or by voice daily. Finding 3-5 things to be grateful for daily, big or small, has a significant impact on your mental health.
Draw or journal.
Create time for creativity and play; detox from technology and the competing noise from being plugged in. We become more inspired and creativity flows freely in these “white” spaces of time in our day than forcing the hustle mentality.
Get into nature – as noted above.
Exercise – again, as noted above, make this a non-negotiable. If you’re sitting most of the day in front of a computer, be sure to take breaks every couple of hours and walk around the office or go for a walk outside. Getting your eyes off the screen and moving your body will dramatically alter your state and clear your mind, making room for better creativity.
Mantras – your thoughts are incredibly powerful. What do you say about yourself; how do you talk to yourself? If necessary, change the self-talk to something positive and/or proclaiming powerful, optimistic statements that start with “I AM _____!”
Level up your squad – Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” To expand on that, 1) you become more like your entire circle of influence, and 2) you should audit the people you spend time with. Are they encouraging you to be a better person? Do they promote healthy habits? Do they help you be the person you excel to be? Do they help you pursue the activities that speak to your heart? Excellence and joy are contagious –make sure you surround yourself with people that make you better.
In the same vain, genuinely connect with people and environment. Unplug your phone. Show up and sit down for family meals. Look people in the eye. Tell people you appreciate them. Look around at the sights and sounds, the architecture and the diverse people, when you’re walking. Listen closely as someone speaks; think before you speak. Stop and smell the roses.
Celebrate little victories – it’s easy to get swept away in the busyness of the season or the work week or the deadlines, but if we don’t stop and celebrate the little wins, we keep plodding ahead with little to no enthusiasm. By nature, we beat ourselves up over perceived poor performance or mistakes. However, when we celebrate our little wins, we are building our confidence, pride in our work, and reinforcing the good behavior that produced the successful result. in contrast to the hustle attitude, it’s energizing. Don’t forget to find people to celebrate with you!
Give – whether that’s giving of your time by volunteering, giving back to the earth by planting a tree, donating to your favorite charity, or purely giving of your time and being present, the ROI is always more than expected.
Give yourself grace. Some days are simply easier than others, don’t beat yourself up. Especially after the holidays, it will take some time to get back to a normal routine. If all else fails, a good Epsom salt bath usually does the trick!
Break down larger projects into bite size, actionable tasks. When you write your to-do list, either at home or at work, be sure to keep your tasks specific, and limit each day with no more than 8 priority items. Tackle the hardest item first to get it out of the way, gain momentum and be more confident moving forward. (remember, we want to celebrate the little victories!).
Research shows that physical clutter clutters your mind and reduces your productive. Gift yourself the best gift this year and purge your desk or your closets at home. Take the one-minute to tidy up at the end of each day.
While creating new habits can feel overwhelming, take one day at a time. Reject the idea that you must do everything all at once and perfectly. Choose one thing to focus on and master it before moving on. Little by little, a little becomes a lot. So, remember one foot in front of the other, no matter how slow or how often you must get up and try again.
All that being said, if your winter blues seem a shade darker, refusing to lift in the days and weeks upon returning to the office, consider reaching out to a mental health professional. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a common, legit issue that should be addressed properly. Above all, know that you’re not alone in the process.