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Combating the Winter Blues: Getting Back on Track after the Holidays

Posted on: 1/10/20
Posted by: Anonymous

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The hustle and bustle of the holidays are over, so now what? Are you dreading crashing from the chaos of the holiday season coupled with the long winter months that loom before us? If so, you are not alone! As someone living with multiple medical and mental health conditions, I can attest that these long, dark and cold months (for us New Englanders!) can be a recipe for the winter blues. Do not stress, though, because I’m going to help you combat the post-holiday slump right HERE and right NOW. Let’s get started by reviewing four challenges you can participate in to get back on track!

Challenge 1: RECHARGE

The holiday season can be taxing, both emotionally and physically, so by the time January rolls around I am beat. I have found that breaks are essential for revitalization and getting back on track. My break consists of prioritizing self-awareness, the five basic needs, and self-care.

Self-Awareness

The first step is self-awareness. I take a few minutes to do a full body scan, while paying attention to any bodily sensations I may be experiencing. I notice areas of my body that may feel calm or tense. Next, I identify the emotions that are tied to the bodily sensations. I address any negative emotions by proceeding to the next step, which is prioritizing my basic needs. Looking for a guided body scan? Check out my favorite here.

The Five Basic Needs

Humans have five basic needs: air, water, food, shelter, and sleep. Yoga and breathing exercises are great ways to fulfill the need for air. Both activities restore a sense of calmness after the hectic holiday season. For water, I make a point to take in an adequate amount of fluids and limit caffeine, particularly after 12pm. I also get back on track from a nutritional standpoint, especially after indulging in many yummy holiday goodies! Keep in mind that everyone’s dietary needs are different, so follow what is healthy for you and do not compare yourself to others. For shelter, I return to my “safe place” whenever I need to re-charge (more on “safe places” below). The fifth basic need, sleep, is something that I have to regularly work on. For me, that means 7-9 hours of sleep with regular waking and bedtimes.  This leads us to our third and final step in revitalization, self-care.

Self-care

Self-care can come in many forms. Do what works best for you given your situation. Some examples of self-care after the holidays include: taking a hike, going to bed early, spending time with a pet, meditating, and drinking chamomile tea.

Challenge 2: NOT OVERDOING IT

Now that you have the skills to recharge and get back on track, let’s discuss the importance of not overdoing it. I’ve learned to not overextend myself because otherwise I end up running on empty. Balancing life’s responsibilities while also taking care of oneself can be hard, so let’s review some ways to avoid overdoing it and how to prevent burnout.

I use The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino to guide me in figuring out how to expend and prioritize my limited time and energy. The Spoon Theory is a visual representation of the amount of energy we have in a day. For example, you may start a typical day with “10 spoons”. Each activity in your life, such as getting ready for work, takes up a certain amount of energy, or spoons. For those of us managing chronic conditions, spoons may be used up more quickly, and may also be in short supply. On my hard days, I may only have 5 spoons (i.e. low energy), and it may take me 3 of those spoons just to get going in the morning and get myself to an appointment or to my job. That means, I only have 2 spoons left for the rest of the things I need to do in the day. Using too may spoons (or more energy than I have) leads to fatigue, sickness, poor mental health, and more.

The Spoon Theory was originally geared for those with chronic illnesses, but people without a medical or mental health condition can also benefit from it. After sharing the Spoon Theory with my friends and family, I’ve found that they have been better able to support me in my efforts to lead a balanced life. I can say “it’s a low spoons day” to my family, friends, and coworkers, and they understand that means I may have to rearrange my day to accommodate my lack of spoons.

Challenge 3: DISPELLING NEGATIVE SELF-TALK AROUND FOOD AND UNREALISTIC EXERCISE GOALS

Often people feel poorly about their bodies after the holidays and resort to harsh New Year’s resolutions. Such resolutions have proved to be not only ineffective, but also damaging to our minds and bodies.

I make a point to never be hard on myself for indulging in any of the holiday feasts or goodies. Eating goodies in moderation is okay and recommended! It helps ward off future cravings that may lead to overeating. In the past, I used to put pressure on myself to exercise after the holidays. Not only was it unwarranted and unnecessary, my goals were unrealistic. I’ve found that setting small goals has not only been more effective, but more fulfilling physically and emotionally. Some examples of my small goals include: walking two loops around the mall while shopping the after Christmas sales, taking the stairs four days a week, deep cleaning my apartment, and stretching during my favorite show’s commercial breaks.

Challenge 4: "ME TIME"

The holidays are great for spending time with our loved ones, but come January, I need some time for myself.

It can be hard to find “me time” in our fast-paced society, so that’s why I’ve created a “safe place” for when I’m feeling overwhelmed. A safe place can be anywhere and include anything, as long as it creates a sense of safety and calmness. My safe place is on the floor in front of my electric fireplace. I access it when I need some alone time. Sitting on the floor helps me feel grounded and the warmth from the fire is soothing. This is particularly helpful when my anxiety and depression peaks, such as right after the holidays. I also have a container of coping skills located in my safe place. Some items in my container include: kinetic sand, Aaron’s Thinking Putty, a heating pad, drawings by my nieces and nephews, a book, knitting supplies, and puzzles. Check out this article on how to create your own safe place, complete with tips on how to educate others so they understand your need for a designated spot. They may decide to follow suit and create their own safe place! If you would like décor inspiration then this next article may be of interest. Have fun and be creative, you deserve it!

I encourage you all to participate in these four challenges. Remember to find time to recharge, don’t overdo it, limit (preferably eliminate!) negative self-talk, and retreat to your safe place whenever needed. I look forward to collectively and successfully warding off the winter blues with YOU!