Why do I feel irritable and tired?

The month of January is filled with transitions, new beginnings, and big goals. It is also filled with endings, debt and failed resolutions. It is normal and common to have a hard time transitioning from vacation, time off, and leisure time to schedules, routines and responsibilities at work. Many people dread the emails, phone calls and meetings that they will have to attend when they return to work. Whether it is a child returning back to school from the winter break or a new college graduate adjusting to life after school, children and adults alike are susceptible to the post holiday blues. And yes, this appears to be a real thing for many people.

What helps with the post holiday back to school and work blues?

From the first week of January until about February clients come in talking about a whole host of issues and feelings they are experiencing as a hangover from the holidays. Depression and anxiety are reported to spike at about this time. These issues range from stress related to in-laws, extended family, feeling inadequate, alcohol and substance over-use, overspending, feeling unappreciated, dreading returning back to work, over-eating, lack of sunshine, winter weather, kids driving parents crazy and travel.

People often ask if there is really anything that they can do to help with this time of year. So, today I thought I would share some ideas that have been useful to other families in helping prevent or combat the fatigue, sadness and disappointment that comes with the end of the holiday season and the beginning of a new year.

Preventing and combating post holiday blues:

1. Set realistic expectations - by having the awareness that there can be a big let down of emotions after the great anticipation of "the most wonderful time of the year" create time and space to allow yourself to feel your feelings and to do what you need to help process those feelings. That can be done by spending time with others and talking or by being alone. What ever works best for you create the time for yourself.

2. Practice gratitude - this means that whatever you could buy or wherever you could travel to over the holidays be grateful for it. Express your appreciation to yourself and to others around what you do have and what you did get to do. Focus on what you have not on what you don't have.

3. Everything in moderation - watch how much food, sugar and alcohol you consume during the holidays. Consider saving days where you eat and drink whatever you want for special occasions rather than every day of the break. Overeating, over-drinking and consuming a lot more sugar than is usual is a recipe for feeling sick or irritable thus making the transition back to school or work even harder.

 4. Sleep - you and your children may have had a couple of weeks of late nights, lazy days and un-monitored screen time. In January, take advantage of the early sunsets (even though most people don't like them) and get yourself and the kids to bed early to get extra sleep. This will help with pretty much everything from regulating your mood and appetite to restoring your energy levels. 

5. Get outside - cold days, less sunlight and gray skies means that a lot more people stay indoors in the winter. If you can find 20 minutes a day to take a brisk walk outside this may help with mood and fatigue in a noticeable way.

6. Plan something - scheduling something out for the future is very helpful in combating the blues. This could be a weekend getaway, a dinner with a friend, a movie you have been wanting to watch, a holiday vacation- basically anything you are looking forward to will likely be very helpful to keep yourself motivated for something next and less focused on how unmotivated you may feel now. 

7. Resolution Mindset - in order to best succeed at your New Year's resolutions you need to set yourself up for success. Create goals that are small, specific and measurable. Create habits around the goal (like setting out workout clothes the night before you are to go to the gym in the morning) and set up your environment to support your goal (like replacing chips with fruit in your house). Last, understand that setbacks are to be expected and just because you go a day or more not working on your goal doesn't mean you should quit. Just think of the next day as a reset- this will help set you and or your children up for success when trying something new and challenging.

Happy Parenting and Happy New Year!

About the author

Sheryl Gonzalez Ziegler, Psy.D. holds a Doctorate of Psychology, is an Author, Speaker, National Media Contributor, Non-Profit Board Member, Girl Scouts Leader, Girls on the Run Coach and Advocate for children. She has been treating children and families for over twenty years with areas of expertise in anxiety, trauma, divorce, stress management and depression. Dr. Ziegler is the author of the best selling book, Mommy Burnout: how to reclaim your life and raise healthier children in the process, the winner of Best Parenting Book of 2018 as awarded by International Latino Book Awards.

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