With the arrival of the new year, the hustle and bustle of the holidays comes to an end. We’re back to reality, with our jobs and regularly scheduled lives. This is the time of year when many of us find ourselves feeling anxious or sad after the holidays, AKA the Post-Holiday Blues.

The long stretch starting at Thanksgiving that lasts all the way to New Year’s can be a period of increased busyness for some, or intense loneliness for others. Either way, this period often exacerbates one’s emotions.

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To top it all off, December through February are the worst months for Seasonal Affective Disorder (seasonal depression) due to the shorter days and minimal amount of sunlight, which can compound with the post-holiday slump and make it worse.

During the holidays, many focus on activities such as baking, decorating, planning celebrations, and gift-giving. People tend to experience hits of dopamine and serotonin while celebrating with loved ones. But when we go back to the normalcy of our day-to-day lives, the mood boost ends – leaving many with post-holiday blues.

But we don’t have to start each new year in a slump. Here are 4 tips to get you mentally and emotionally well as the year begins.

Get Moving

It’s true that moving your body and prioritizing exercise in your life helps your mental health. However, finding time to go to the gym or take an exercise class can sometimes feel impossible. Lucky for us, we live in the digital age, and many exercise classes are available on YouTube. Yoga with Adrienne features free yoga videos from ten minutes to an hour long. Going on a walk during your lunch break is also a great way to get in some steps!

Practice Gratitude

Instead of focusing on the negatives, practicing gratitude allows you to reverse negative thinking and instead encourages you to focus on the positives in your life.

If you’ve never practiced gratitude before, it can be a bit difficult to figure out where to start. One of the best ways to practice gratitude is through journaling. Putting a pen to paper may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but even typing into your notes app or recording a short voice memo on your phone works. Here are 20 journal prompts to get you started.

If practicing gratitude this way feels inauthentic or causes guilt for still feeling bad when you should be grateful, try reading this article from Wondermind.  Acknowledging your emotions and accepting the negative while still focusing on the good things in life can lead to a more fulfilling gratitude practice.

Schedule time with your friends and loved ones

When the blues hit it’s easy to lose motivation, which is why we suggest scheduling time to spend with loved ones in advance. It gives you something to look forward to, and even though the activity may not come with holiday cheer, it’ll give you a mood boost to spend time with those you cherish.

Simply going for a walk, hosting a game night, or going to the movies can really boost your mood and help maintain momentum after the holidays.

Get enough sleep

It’s crucial to get at least seven hours of sleep each night, especially after the holidays. The holidays are a busy time of year, and the intense emotions can leave one feeling exhausted, both emotionally and physically.

If you find yourself restless at night, you may want to stop drinking caffeine 8 hours before you plan to go to sleep. For example, if you wish to fall asleep at 10 pm, you should stop drinking caffeine by 2 pm at the latest. You may also want to sleep without electronics in your room, therefore eliminating distraction.

For more tips on healthy sleeping habits visit Sleep Education’s website.

The post-holiday blues are a sense of temporary distress, and are not prolonged – unlike clinical depression. If you are feeling prolonged stress and exhaustion, please know you’re not alone. Reach out to the national helpline if there’s an emergency.

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