The holidays are demanding in every way. You’ve spent more time with the extended family than you’re normally used to tolerating (or loving). You’ve had a million things to do, including gift shopping, food preparation, decorating, not to mention all the social engagements, dinner parties, kids’ holiday concerts… Anything else missing on that list?
All that activity takes a physical and emotional toll. On top of that, you probably slept less than usual through all that busyness, so you’re also mentally tired. Credit card bills start coming in and you recall how easy it was to just charge it and worry about the consequences later. Now Later has arrived.
The Post-Holiday Hangover
The post-holiday hangover is a real thing. For many people it’s a relief to get back to a normal schedule. For others, the month of January is a major letdown after riding the high of the festive season. Whether you normally welcome it or dread it, the post-holiday time confronts us with the reality of credit card bills, emotional depletion, and physical exhaustion.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people are impacted by holiday depression. The most common triggers are related to money, as well as emotional and physical stress that come with the holiday season. The inevitable return to work can also contribute to post-holiday blues as we have to re-engage, once again, with the responsibilities of normal life following a float on a rum-and'-eggnog cloud.
Weight gain is another issue many people face following a holiday filled with sticky toffee cakes, cream pies, sugar cookies, booze, and generally just too much food for too many days in a row. Combine that with very little exercise and you’ve got a recipe for an extra love handle or two.
The post-holiday weeks are even more difficult for people who struggle with depression or anxiety and are far more prone to experiencing stress and dark days. For those living in the western hemisphere, the shortage of daylight and cold weather can bring on a bout of the winter blues, further contributing to the post-holiday hangover.
Dare we even mention the kitchen situation? Piles of leftover food have taken up residence in your refrigerator. You ran out of Lord-only-knows-what and haven’t noted it down on your shopping list. Whoever “helped” clean up the kitchen had no idea what belonged where and now you’re left with disorganized cupboards and drawers that make you cringe every time you open one.
How To Alleviate Post-Holiday Stress
So, now that we’ve identified the sources of post-holiday stress and chaos, we want to simmer things down. In this guide, you’ll find seven tips for tackling all those practical demands while also keeping your sanity in check. It’s a balancing act!
Rather than skipping ahead, we recommend reading this guide as it flows. Each tip is provided in priority sequence, starting with a little decompressing and following with sensible ways for getting everything done and back in order.
TIP #1: Give yourself extra TLC
Getting back into the swing of things isn’t easy once you’ve allowed yourself a period of “letting it all go.” So go easy on yourself in the first few days. Allow a few days of in-between breather time.
Sleep in. Have breakfast in bed. Enjoy a second cup of coffee. Get outside for a walk in nature and crisp, cool air. Watch a movie in the middle of the day. Take a nap. Have a bubble bath. Wine and dine yourself or your partner. Eat good, wholesome food. Read a good book or “indulge” in a favorite hobby.
Whatever you choose to do with your TLC time, make sure it’s something that restores a sense of peace and calm within. This is the foundation for tackling all those upcoming tasks.
TIP #2: Clean out the fridge & reorganize your kitchen
Your kitchen is undeniably the most important room in your home. After a short break, it makes sense to reestablish order so you can continue all the cooking you love so much. But where do you start?
Remove or freeze old leftovers. Discernment is key here. Don’t just freeze everything. Keep it only if you’re actually going to eat it later or use inside a recipe. Gravy and brussel sprouts and the like aren’t the best candidates for preserving, but any meat, casseroles, or mashed potatoes can be put to great use in slow cookers to make soups and stews, or in pot pies, wraps, and sloppy sandwiches.
Reorganize your cupboards & drawers. It’s only human to unintentionally chuck cooking utensils and the like into their unrightful place in your haste to manage a busy cooking schedule. Or perhaps someone who’s not familiar with your kitchen helped you clean up and you were too kind to say anything about spatulas not belonging with the knives and forks. If your kitchen system has gone haywire, get the order back first before attempting to throw yourself into any cooking tasks.
Make a shopping list of all those cooking fundamentals you ran out of. Spices, certain sauces, flour, and more. Such a task involves going through your cupboards one by one to assess damage, which you’re doing in order to reorganize anyways. Why not make it a joint effort? Bring back order while you construct your shopping list.
TIP #3: Get those decorations down post haste
Holiday decorations that extend into January can be a bit depressing. It’s incredible how what once looked glowing and festive can suddenly appear garish and tacky in the light of days gone back to normal. We highly recommend pulling out the boxes and dismantling all those thoughtfully placed decorations no later than a week after New Year’s Day. Taking care of this task early on can help set the right environment for influencing normal life back into full swing.
This is also an ideal time in which to sort through decorations and decide what stays and what goes. Don’t just throw everything back into their storage spaces. You won’t see those trinkets, tinsel, and strands of lights again for another year, so toss what has seen its day and keep what’s still going strong.
TIP #4: Clean one room a day starting with your kitchen
Just one. Unless you hire a cleaner to do your dirty work, cleaning a home that houses three to four people is a full-day affair. If you’re one of those people who enjoys diving in and getting it all done at once, then knock yourself out. But if you’re anything like us, then you’ll tire by the time you’re halfway through and start taking shortcuts. That means a less thorough job and more work later.
Breaking cleaning tasks up into small chunks can alleviate some of the pressure, physical exhaustion, and effort later on. Tell yourself, today I’m going to clean one bathroom from top to bottom. Or, today I’m going to clean out all my kitchen cupboards. This method presents just one area for you to focus on, which can alleviate or prevent huge amounts of stress.
TIP #5: Emphasize routine
We love routine. That is, until we don’t love it anymore. Routine keeps our lives orderly. It keeps us on task, feeling accomplished, and secure about what comes next. It makes life predictable, which is a good thing. But as we know, too much predictability can get a bit boring.
The new year is an ideal time to start fresh, and the reason so many of us make resolutions. While sticking to a routine isn’t the most glamorous new year’s resolution, it’s certainly a practical one that will have a noticeable positive impact on your life.
The trick is to avoid making your routine too, well, routine. Construct it thoughtfully, with consideration to what makes you thrive and what makes you wither. Be realistic. It’s easy to write something down with the intention to do it. It’s another to actually do it. Create a routine that is flexible enough for you to follow but demanding enough to keep you focused on what needs doing.
The main areas to emphasize are sleeping, eating, and exercise. Those three key areas of life impact all the time in between, either positively or negatively. Sleep specialist Matthew Walker suggests going to bed at roughly the same time every night and waking the same time each day. However, he also claims it’s possible to pay back a sleep deficit, which you may have following the holidays. So, allow yourself a few days to wake naturally, without an alarm.
You can also improve your diet by working it into your schedule. While it’s ideal to listen to your body, your body will speak according to what it’s used to. If it’s in the routine of eating at the same times every day, it’s likely going to get hungry at those times. Planning out what you’re going to eat and having it ready can go a long way towards an overall more nutritious diet in the long term.
And last but not least is exercise. Incidental exercise is little bursts of movement that happen throughout the course of your daily life, such as taking the stairs versus the elevator. Or, parking a great distance from the entrance of a store so you have to walk further. Those are all great, but they’re not enough.
Health experts recommend 20-30 minutes of exercise a minimum of three times per week, involving cardio, strength, resistance, and flexibility. Working intentional exercise into your daily schedule makes you more likely to do it. But keep your exercise routine interesting. Boredom is a huge motivation killer. Mix it up with walking, running, yoga, a competitive sport, dancing, weight training, or aerobics.
TIP #6: Take a “flow” day
Downtime is highly underrated. Human beings are busy people, and even on rest days we usually have at least one or two activities scheduled. A true rest day involves doing nothing. Nada. Zilch. If that sounds boring to you, it will likely feel that way. But if you allow yourself to sit through the boredom, you’ll find it’s highly restorative.
The idea isn’t necessarily to sit in an empty room and stare at a blank wall. The kind of nothing we’re talking about is allowing yourself a full day free of plans. No cooking. No cleaning. No work. No “have-tos.” Instead, you wake in the morning and decide moment to moment how you’re going to live the day. If you feel like cleaning the kitchen top to bottom because you actually want to, then it’s in your flow, so go for it. If you feel like watching a movie, reading a book, taking a walk, go for it. The point is to feel into what your body, mind, and spirit need that day.
TIP #7: Eat clean (but allow a few treats)
Good nutrition is one of the primary ways we keep our bodies healthy and our minds calm and collected. After a few weeks of consuming sugar and booze, returning to a clean and wholesome diet can help manage stress levels as effectively as daily exercise.
Arguably, it’s not easy kicking out the treats when your body has become used to them. Start with a good intention to add something healthy to each meal, even if you’re not yet removing the junky stuff. Then, after a few days, you’ll notice that the more nutritious foods begin to replace the less effective foods. It’s a method nutrition experts call “subtraction by addition.”
Don’t forget to allow yourself the occasional treat though. A healthy balance calls for a little indulgence too. And you can still make good choices when it comes to the junky stuff too. There are plenty of treats that aren’t as naughty as others. It’s less about what and more about how much.
Enjoy a Calm & Happy 2022…
We hope this free guide has brought peace and calm into your home following the 2021 holiday season. If you have questions, comments, or other feedback, please feel free to contact us, or sign up for our monthly newsletter.
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