It’s the end of December as I write this and I know that for many people the Christmas period is one of the most stressful, lonely and isolating times on the calendar. Whether you think of it as post-Christmas blues, the January blues or some other name the characteristics are similar.
To me, the term ‘blues’ suggests a low mood or a mild form of depression. It often occurs around winter breaks and there are various reasons for it. Christmas is a time full of expectations, some of which may be met, but some not. Even people that love Christmas will often agree it’s a stressful time. If family is involved it may mean gearing up to buy presents, travel, and coping with unfamiliar routines and difficult family members. But for those who enjoy every minute of Christmas the mood slump usually comes when it finishes. They return to a mundane existence, perhaps or maybe their expectations were set too high and disappointment follows.
Christmas indulgences are sometimes followed by guilt. You discover that the weight it took so long to shift has returned in just a few days. A weight gain of up to seven pounds can be achieved fairly easily over Christmas but with a return to sensible dieting and a little exercise this can easily be lost in two to three weeks. Of greater concern to most people are the issues of family conflict, breakups, or debt.
Put a bunch of people together in the same room for a period of time and it’s unrealistic to expect total harmony. The longer the time frame the more likely it is that people’s little habits and opinions will become irritating. This is perfectly normal and you shouldn’t worry that your family is dysfunctional and that every other family is all hugs and smiles. What’s important is not to let the issue(s) simmer. Be the bigger person and initiate either an apology or some way of letting everyone know that family is still bigger than an argument over something.
Debt affects a lot of people. Some people are still paying off the debt they acquired from the previous Christmas. There are some very practical steps you could consider. For example, look around for 0% balance transfer deals on a credit or store card. Maybe think about consolidating debts via a low % personal loan. Avoid money-loan companies. They make borrowing money sound quick and easy but their charges are usually through the roof.
Relationships breakups are all too common over Christmas. Being dumped is bad enough but over Christmas it’s like being kicked when you’re down. The person who is rejected often looks for answers. They find it too painful and sometimes the person who has called it off is too vague or passive in admitting they just want to move on. Breakups can therefore be complex and unnecessarily dragged out. There’s no stock answer to this. The person who is rejected will almost certainly be in for a rough time. Maybe you had a friend who has been through the same? What advice did you give them? It takes time to get over a relationship but you will help matters by making a clean break of it. Few people manage to maintain friendships after a breakup as there are constant reminders of pain. Reconnect with your strengths and try to move on.
Many other people will return to work after Christmas feeling lethargic, unfulfilled and wondering how long they have to wait until the next break. It may be a time to examine your options, but don’t go to extremes. If you aren’t miserable in your job but just feel a little sluggish it’s time to think about how you might grow within the role. Are there courses you might go on? Are there activities or groups you might involve yourself with? Have you outgrown your existing role enough to consider promotion? Focusing on what’s missing is really only part of the picture. Stay balanced by reminding yourself of your strengths and take things forward from that perspective.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.