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The Holidays are Winding Down; What’s Next?

If you are feeling the “post-holiday blues” extra hard this year, you are not alone. Perhaps you are still finding scraps of wrapping paper in the nooks and crannies of your home, missing family members you wished you could’ve seen, or just overall mourning the year “that could have been”.

Whatever the case for you, it is normal to have this reaction. For many, the thought of a new year after what we have all been through with the pandemic could be overwhelming. Murmurs such as; “this year was a waste”, “where did the time go”, or “what will happen next”, have been quietly swirling in the background of daily life.

For many who still feel like part of them is stuck in March 2020, these thoughts are not unheard of. When it comes to trauma, such as the pandemic’s major disruption on society, a part of our minds could almost feel like it is frozen in time, still processing all the change and loss we faced so far. With the holidays wrapping up, some people could be struggling with what to look forward to next; however, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Mind Shrine offers some mindful tips and tricks for some quick, doable techniques to try to give your headspace a positive boost & break as we go into the new year. To achieve a more adaptive response to the post-holiday blues, feel free to try the following:

1. Unplug & Unwind

For many, watching the news is very important to become updated on events going on in the world. However, it is also helpful to check-in with yourself when you feel like watching too much news could be triggering any anxiety, low mood, or post-holiday blues.

Hearing repetitive negative stories on the news without any breaks could cause mental flooding, which is the uncomfortable feeling of being overwhelmed emotionally, psychologically, physically, or even spiritually. When we experience mental flooding, essentially our nervous system has a lower threshold for stimuli, meaning we can become more sensitive to our “fight or flight” stress response.

If you start to notice your own unique stress response (examples: fast heartrate, dizziness, irritability, social withdrawal, low motivation, tearfulness, & many more) while you are watching the news, it might be a good idea to pause, breathe for a moment, and give yourself a break. You can change the channel, don’t check social media as much, or take some time to do some self-care. You can also read the news rather than watch it if that is less stimulating for you. Perhaps having a designated loved one recap the news story for that day for you can also ease stress.

2.Move Around & Stretch it Out

Moving our bodies in anyway can help us release endorphins, a hormone our bodies release when engaging in physical exercise. This chemical not only can reduce pain at times, but it allows our minds to feel more positive and energized.

Feeling a bit down? Walk, run, stretch! It will be worth it. It does not even have to be rigorous exercise, it could be taking a break from your laptop & walking a lap around your home, practicing chair yoga during commercial breaks, or even wiggling your fingers/toes if you start to feel too sedentary.

3.Spread Post-Holiday Cheer

Cheer is not exclusive to the holiday season. Those in your life could be going through a tough time this season and you may or might not be aware. Practicing other modes of social support during this time can help you feel more connected while helping others in need.

For example, you could practice emotional support, the most popular form of support, by helping others feel understood and accepted no matter what they are feeling. You could also engage in tangible support, which is addressing practical needs for others such as dropping off groceries, picking up medications, or sending a gift to someone.

By helping others in these ways, you end up practicing belonging support automatically, which is a type of support that makes you feel like a part of something greater than yourself. This could be part of a community, religious group, family, or a greater cause. When we feel connected with others via this type of support, it reminds ourselves of the good in the world even during a turbulent time. Feel the blues coming on? Send a new years card or message, call an old friend… we are in this together!

4. Guided Imagery & Breathe

If you feel like your mindset has become too stuck in the past lately, specifically feeling paralyzed by “would’ve/could’ve/should’ve” thoughts concerning the holidays or something else, a guided imagery meditation might be right for you.

This meditation helps change negative rumination about the past into a positive reflection. This exercise is a meditation where you can imagine yourself in an environment of your choosing that could be relaxing; such as a beach, forest, desert, or even a memory. For some, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself in the “perfect” holiday scenario if you feel like you missed out this year, asking yourself the following questions; “Who am I with?”, “Where am I?”, “What smells are there?”, “What are the sounds?”, etc. When we reflect on our 5 senses while recalling a pleasant memory while visualizing it, we start to feel almost like we are there. Many times, after practicing this technique, we feel more hopeful and thankful.

5. Be Kind to Yourself

Be easy on yourself when concerning New Year’s Resolutions. Validating yourself that this year was very different and hard can be therapeutic if you feel like you are pressuring yourself to meet a certain standard. Instead of berating yourself for not sticking to some goals you had in mind, make a back-up plan that you feel like is more realistic and doable. Think of goals as a series of rungs on a ladder rather than the ladder itself, starting from the bottom to the top. If you gained or lost some weight, don’t feel like your best self, not sleeping as well, etc, validate yourself that you are not alone.

After the holidays and around the new year, it's a natural time for reflection, which can stir up mixed emotions. Practicing mindfulness can help bring more awareness to the specific feelings that may arise, but also help you indulge in self-compassion, meaning you are giving yourself permission to heal. If you can practice these feelings to come and go without judgment, then you can create space for more acceptance and decrease feeling negatively about yourself.

In conclusion, if you feel like the “post-holiday blues” turned in to more of a depression, you may want to reach out and contact a mental health professional for more support.

I wish you all a peaceful and healthy New Year!

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