As much as we love winter holidays, we can all admit that the holiday season is quite stressful. This stress doesn’t only relate to the pre-festive season, but also to the post-holiday blues.
At first, we have to buy presents, and shopping around Christmas time can be stressful, not just because of the large queues and festive music, which some studies have shown to depress us further. Added to this, is an underlying sense of not being good enough. We may think that our presents are way too small and we should buy more, so we often end up overspending or feeling disheartened because not everything is affordable or within budget. Along with doing festive ‘chores’, most people need to cope with an increased workload before the holidays as they desperately try and get as much wrapped up by New Year, and this is tiring.
Then suddenly, boom: New Year’s resolutions are written down, wishes are made and we’ve entered the new decade. However, instead of feeling inspired and full of energy, we are blue and empty.
After the crazy pre-holiday season, we want to start the ‘new life’ right away. But since most of us are still a bit tired from all the fuss, we end up doing nothing and feeling guilty for it.
So why does this happen and how can you counter it?
It is common to set New Year’s goals, which can be a good thing if managed correctly. Yet there is a phenomenon of alternation of pleasure and tension: we await to have some pleasure after stress. Since the holiday season is already a stressful period, we try to postpone new tensions (or stresses) by promising ourselves to start something from the New Year, next Monday and so on. While we may feel relieved after writing in a journal ‘start running 10 kilometers every day starting on January 1st’, our brain won’t forget it and it will stay in our subconscious. If there are a lot of such tasks in the subconscious, we experience emotional stress or anxiety, which makes it even more difficult to start anything.
Firstly, let yourself rest. We all need some time off once in a while. So, try not to do anything stressful or even think about what you have to do. Just take your time. Spend time with friends and family or simply alone with a book. Go ice skating or spend the whole day in your PJs binge-watching your favorite series. Simply do whatever you like and try not to feel guilty for not doing anything productive, but rather think of this time as an act of self-care.
It is important to listen to your body: try not to overeat, drink enough water and get a regular sleeping routine. Mediating can also be beneficial if you don’t get panic attacks while doing it. Try to have a couple of minutes a day of not thinking about anything and clear your mind. Our brain distracts and wants to analyze everything all the time, so trying to stop the train of thoughts for a short time may help to control anxiety and promote emotional health.
When you feel refreshed, try to plan.
Planning is key to everything, as often said, ‘those who fail to plan, plan to fail’. But do it self-consciously. First of all, ask yourself which goals you really want to achieve, why you need them and how to implement them in your life.
When planning, plan SMART– specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Don’t write in your planner something like “I want to run a marathon this year” and try to run 20 kilometers the next day or “I want to learn Chinese” and try to read a whole book in Chinese within the next week. As with such planning you’re very likely going to fail and feel bad for it, which will make it close to impossible to try something again.
It’s more beneficial to aim small and build these smaller goals into the bigger picture. For that you must break down your main goal into bite-sized pieces. Turn planning into a pleasant pastime – get yourself a beautiful notebook and write with favorite pens or use an application, and track your plans while listening to good music, having candles lit up or whatever makes you feel comfortable.
Try to take little steps like doing any sports activity you like regularly for 30 minutes or download an application like Duolingo that will help you to learn a new language. With time, you can make these steps bigger and see the progress you make. Please, praise yourself for your achievements. It may sound easy, but it is often quite difficult to cherish oneself or to take compliments. But you deserve them. So thank yourself for every little step you’ve made and don’t compare yourself to others – we’re all different.
Also, don’t be afraid of failures, they happen and it’s totally okay. It is important to take a fail as a lesson that will help you to do better in the future.
If you still don’t feel content and comfortable, but rather dispirited, anxious and afraid, please consider getting help.
Try to open up to the people you trust, like family and friends, and share your emotions with them, or find a support group. There are also several centers in Vienna, which offer free-of-charge psychological help and support, for example:
We’re being put under pressure by society and social media, which make us think that we obligatory have to change right after the New Year’s Eve. The main thing we have to remember is that changes won’t magically happen. Actually, nothing will change unless you start doing something. But it is important to feel comfortable while implementing the changes, not to rush anywhere and thank yourself for the little steps you take. You can achieve a lot if you’re at peace with yourself.