30 Seconds for Hope – Are you exhausted after all the exertions of the holiday season? Are you feeling a little down, or maybe even edgy? It’s time for holiday recovery! Moms, don’t feel bad if you and your children need to take some time to recharge. Give yourself a break while you realistically assess your needs and prioritize refreshment.
And now the full story:
The letter in my hands was tethered to a lump in my throat. The lump gave way to tears as I reread my mom’s letter of disapproval, critiquing me and my children. A few weeks before, my family had traveled to visit parents for Christmas, which was no small task with a two-month-old baby and two rambunctious boys. But now my mom’s letter expressed little appreciation for my holiday efforts (twelve hour car trip, gifts for all—wrapped!—and excursions to visit relatives). Even though I knew I should understand that she was mentally ill, having been diagnosed with mixed personality disorder and depression, her letter was still heartbreaking. And I was exhausted. The holiday season of hope morphed into a winter session of the blues.
The solution? Take some time to regroup and refresh! I did so by reframing my thoughts and rebooting my life.
Over the years I’ve learned to anticipate the possibility of a let-down after the holidays. If a downtime arrives, half the battle is understanding what has happened and gaining some perspective. So what happens during the holidays that can lead to post-holiday blues?
- Holidays often bring emotional depletion. You’ve shared exciting times with family, but excitement can be exhausting. If you’ve had a great time with family, you may feel sad from missing them after holidays are over. On the other hand, holiday conflicts in relationships can create ongoing sadness (like the situation with my mom). It’s disappointing when things can’t be better with loved ones. And you may have emotional strain over a holiday budget failure.
- During the holidays you expended extra physical energy and now you’re tired. You worked hard to meet holiday deadlines—shopping, gift-wrapping, holiday meals, greeting cards, parties and reunions. You were often on-the-go, and that’s exhausting. And because you had little margin to get everything done (with kids to care for), you may have bought time through sacrificing sleep.
- Sometimes we’re plain bored after holiday excitement. Packed calendars have given way to an empty schedule. Having nothing to look forward to can be depressing.
- Perhaps during the holidays your children didn’t have their normal sleep routines and didn’t eat healthy meals, and perhaps relatives didn’t adhere to your normal rules. So now you may be facing tired, unmanageable kiddos, and that’s depressing. Plus sometimes families become sick during or after the holidays. Not fun.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can contribute, too. Your body might be sensitive to the lack of sunshine in the winter. January is dark and cold. (Oh, for springtime again!)
So…what to do? Once you’ve determined the reasons for your own post-holiday slump, you can take steps toward a remedy. For example:
- For exhaustion, take some time for recovering without guilt! Don’t take on blame if you need to lay low for a few days or even weeks. Choose relaxed playtime at home with the kids, or go on some low-key outings where you don’t have any deadlines. Give yourself time for digging out of laundry and email piles. Get the kids to bed early a few nights, if you can.
- For chaos, regroup your troops. Take extra time staying home to reestablish routines for your children. Don’t be afraid to say “No” to playgroups or to your friends. (On the other hand, if being with friends is your biggest need for encouragement, then by all means do it! Which leads to #3…)
- For discouragement, stay connected with friends. Who is that friend who will listen while you recount your holiday events to process what happened? Think of creative ways to connect with friends within your normal schedule. Is there someone you and your children can share a meal with? Or a friend who can tag along on that low-key outing?
- For boredom, think about future weeks and create some new plans to look forward to. Be sure they are attainable ideas that you can fulfill, not some outlandish, expensive plan!
- For lack of hope, think about some good things you can expect to happen. Maybe a friend has promised something you look forward to? Maybe you’ve read a book that brings you some hope? My go-to hope book gave me anticipation that the future is bright. No matter how sad I was about my mom, nor how bad the present looked, I could always camp on the confidence that God is with me and he will help me. Ps 27:10
- For ongoing depression, it’s okay to admit the sadness isn’t going away and get some help. A mental health professional can help you sort through relational issues or help you understand if you’re suffering from SAD or some other physical issue. As stated by Mayo Clinic: “It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide.”
Most of our post-holiday blues are not here to stay. We just need recovery time. So don’t beat yourself up. Be patient while you refresh, and remember to camp on the positives. In no time at all you’ll be looking forward to spring green!
P.S. Twenty years later my mom (who is now deceased) complimented me by saying I’d done a great job raising my children. Who would have guessed?! She commented that they’d turned out so well—respectful, pleasant, and responsible. My former sadness about her criticism wasn’t the end of the story!
“Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 Oct. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651.