You know the drill. Every year, the holiday season comes and goes, somehow more hectic and commercialized than the last. Just when we thought it couldn’t get busier or more materialistic, it does. Each year out-competing the last. Despite our greatest efforts to remain grateful and connected to the God who provides, we too fall prey to the demands of the season. If we’re honest, many of us experience the holiday blues and find ourselves let down or even depressed in the new year as the festivities draw to a close.
So, why is it that so many of us begin the year with a case of the blues? Though the possibilities are many, here are a few of the more common reasons.
- The holidays may have had unmet expectations
- Grief is amplified during the holidays
- We might carry guilt from overindulgences
- Unrealistic New Year’s resolutions might already be overburdening us
- Weather and lack of sunlight can keep many of us indoors or isolated
- The holiday season may precede an episode of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a type of depression that often recurs in winter
Whatever the reason, the post-holiday blues are a real thing. Many people experience it each year. The symptoms can resemble a mild form of depression, but typically aren’t as severe or as long-lasting. Symptoms can include: Sad or depressed mood, isolating oneself, low motivation or energy, craving carbs and caffeine, and possibly mild anxiety.
Following these seasons of busyness and celebration, there is a natural letdown. There is a pause. But, we aren’t the first ones to have experienced this. Think about Mary and Joseph’s first glorious Christmas and the birth of their firstborn son, Jesus. This amazing event took place in the humblest of settings: a barn in the dead of winter. Mary and Joseph then had to flee to protect their Messiah-Son from Herod’s wrath. These weren’t easy times. They might not have known the best was still to come.
We just celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas. We remembered how this event marked the fulfillment of God’s promises for a Savior for all people. But it was only the beginning. The best of Jesus’ life on Earth was yet to come: His teachings, His miracles, His walking among us, His love, His forgiveness. Prior to His death, He revealed that the best was still yet to come: “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you …” John 16:7 NASB. The Holy Spirit is the Helper who came to us. He is the one who can walk with us and counsel each of us intimately, all the days of our lives, when we pause and seek Him. When we pause.
Could there be purpose found in the letdown or pain? Maybe the post-holiday blues give us time to pause and seek Him, knowing that a blue Christmas is not reflective of what He has in store for us!
Here are some things that you can do to combat the post-holiday blues—as you pause.
- You can start a new tradition that honors an important loss.
- Recalibrate: look forward to the new year as you set realistic, attainable goals.
- Pick a word or a theme to work on throughout the year.
- Maintain or adopt a healthier lifestyle.
- Plan some time for fun. Don’t forget to relax and take a godly breather each week.
- Cultivate gratitude. Studies show that practicing gratitude improves mood, relationships and health. Try journaling one thing you’re thankful for each day.
- Address the needs of post-Christmas finances, or reassess financial goals for the year.
- Invest in relationships. Cultivate friendships. Surround yourself with the right people.
- Show kindness to others every chance you get. Find a way to serve your community.
Pause. Pray. Persevere! Your blue Christmas is behind you. Use this quieter season to regroup and grow. Lastly, if the blues worsen or if they persist for more than a few weeks, don’t isolate yourself. Talk to your medical doctor, a counselor, your pastor, or a loved one to help you find the right help. Your blue feelings are common this time of year. You are not alone, and with God’s help, you will grow through this and become stronger than ever this year.