Tis the season where many are packing away the tinsel and bows until next time, and are beginning to make plans for a “New Year/New You!” What happens if these presumably joyful times give way to the post-holiday blues? Why is it about winter that make this experience so common? Spring gives new life to the world surrounding us, Summer is a season for blossoming relationships and new experiences, and Fall brings a reminder of constant change. It is no wonder that when we are left with winter, whose bone chilling winds, sometimes tense relational memories or encounters at holidays, and barren brown landscapes, that our souls sometimes struggle to process what is left. During this time of chilly and often bad weather, isolation, overextending, indulgence, and a feeling of incompleteness is commonplace.
For many who celebrate the holidays of the season, the business of preparation and participation may serve as great emotional distractions; for others the entire season, from Thanksgiving until the flowers bloom, winter is an uphill struggle. A common trait for many Midwesterners is feeling particularly low once the proverbial dust has settled. Frank J. Walker, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, offers these tips on his web page for possible solutions for when our holiday “stress is at level orange”.
· Connect: isolation is an easy byproduct of bad weather and coldsnaps, but making a habit of being alone is burdensome to our emotional health. Being with others who lift us up can be a potentially enriching experience.
· Budget: Time and finances are commodities to which there is a finite reserve. Budget them both in ways that do not leave you overextended. If the holiday season got the best of your wallet or sleep habits, reevaluate where you are, make a plan for progress, and stick to it.
· Pace your plate: The foods of the season are often based in carb loaded comfort. Partake in a balanced way that satisfies a desire for these holiday treats occasionally while maintaining a primarily balanced diet of foods that fuel your whole body. For more on how dietary intake might impact our emotional well-being, check out this article from Dr. Mitchell Gaynor.
· Practice contentment: In a holiday environment, it is easy and overwhelming to our senses to fixate on what was missing that took away from our joy. If the focus shifts to gratitude for what we do have, our brain becomes trained in practicing contentment. Whether it’s the memories of loved ones lost, or a focus on good health, friends near, family joys, it is possible to feed our souls with focus on the good.
In keeping with this thought, it is helpful to be mindful of what we feed our emotional self as well. If we feed into the negative thoughts that pass through us, are we giving them fuel to grow? What if we starved them, and instead fed thoughts that feed us and those around us? For some, this change in mindset comes as natural as can be. For others, the road to peace during this season may be best pursued in the company of a mental healthcare professional. The Greater Cedar Rapids area has many wonderful clinicians, including those at The Olson Marriage and Family Clinic.
Gaynor, Mitchell L. (2014). Diet and Depression: Foods that help improve your mood. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-genetic-destiny/201410/diet-and-depression
Walker, Frank J (2017). Beat those holiday blues. https://walkertherapy.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/10-ways-to-beat-the-holiday-blues/