When the holiday's warm glow fades

When the season ends, it's important to keep perspective, plan for letdown

When the season ends, it's important to keep perspective, plan for letdown

December 27, 2002|by MEG H. PARTINGTON

The gifts are unwrapped, the guests are gone and the silence of winter sets in.

Such is the pattern every year as the holiday season comes to a close. Feelings of disappointment or sadness may set in for a while as the humdrum routine resumes.

You're not alone if you feel moody, fatigued, sad or lonely.

"A little of that is expected after the holidays," said Barbara Ehrenberg, a licensed independent clinical social worker with A Brighter Tomorrow LLC Counseling Center in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Talk to others about your less-than-merry feelings, said Lou Lichti, a psychologist with City Park Psychological Services & Associates in Hagerstown. Take time to reflect on the good times you had, she added.


The holiday season is an emotional, spiritual and physical experience, Ehrenberg said, and therefore "You have to expect that you'll be recovering in the emotional, spiritual and physical realm."

To combat the overindulgence, expectation and stress that often accompany the holidays, start the recuperation process by relaxing.

"Treat yourself to something that's good," Lichti said, such as a day at a spa.

Then, rejuvenate by getting moving.

"Exercise is always really important," Lichti said.

Set simple exercise goals such as walking 15 or 20 minutes a day or actually using your gym membership, Lichti said.

If you overspent on gifts, causing lingering emotional stress, devise a financial plan that will get you out of debt, Ehrenberg said. It's empowering to emerge in better economic shape, she said.

While change - in this case from holiday revelry to post-holiday normalcy - is part of life, there's no need to rush it.

"Ease back into your normal routine," Ehrenberg said.

And don't pressure yourself to work on New Year's resolutions right away.

Give yourself time to get back in your "regular stride" before trying to change it, Ehrenberg said.

Something to look forward to

There are ways to avoid, or at least diminish, the letdown when the calendar shows the holidays are over.

Make plans to do something enjoyable, such as skiing, taking day trips or going to a beach off-season. Studies have shown that doing so produces hormones that reduce feelings of stress, Lichti said.

Make the most of some solitary time, perhaps using it to read, reflect, make crafts or work on projects that need to be done, she said.

Decompress after hosting friends and family by reconnecting with immediate family, Lichti said. Go on a date with your partner, or have a special dinner for your spouse and children.

Rather than focusing on how sad it is to undecorate the Christmas tree, make a party out of it, Lichti suggested.

Then start preparing to adorn your living space for another occasion, such as Valentine's Day.

"This certainly isn't the only season we decorate for anymore," Lichti said.


Evaluate what went well this year and what didn't. Then aim to repeat the successes and improve on what didn't work, Ehrenberg said.

Make prevention of post-holiday letdown part of your preparations for next year's celebration, she said.

"It's important to keep the holiday season simple," Ehrenberg said.

To that end, stay within your budget, take care of your body and don't try to fix problems in your relationships during the holidays, she said.

The Web site for the National Mental Health Association - - suggests making a list and prioritizing activities for the next holiday season. Don't focus just on one day, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, but instead spread the holiday sentiment over a longer period.

Finally, look toward the future, the NMHA site encourages. Each season can be enjoyed in its own way.

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