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Treating the "Post-Holiday Blues"

By Kylanne Briggs, LCSW, Behavioral Health Provider, Valley-Wide Health Center Canon City

"January is a long cold month," my grandmother would say every year. As children, we just thought it was a funny thing that grandmas said. But as I grew older, I began to understand just exactly what she meant.
"Post-Holiday Blues" is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-V, the manual that helps guide mental health care treatment, but is it certainly a part of our American reality. Recent studies show at least 25% of Americans experience some type of emotional let-down after the holidays pass.
After months of Hallmark movies, delicious baked goods, shopping trips, decorating, work parties, and special time with loved ones, the magic passes in just a blink of a few short days. Or perhaps you prepared for magic, and the family squabbled, the turkey was dry, and your kids never once said thank you for the sacrificial gifts you gave. And then come January 2, it is back to work, back to school, or just plain back to life and back to reality as En Vogue would serenade us.
So what can we do to lessen the blow?
The first thing you can do is take a look at your eating habits. Most likely, the holidays brought a period of indulgence, and your body got used to having those "feel good" foods regularly. Sugars, carbs, and fancy drinks can bring a temporary surge of happy hormones. Now comes the "crash" of irritability, headaches, and frustration as your body is asking for the indulgence to continue, but you know your waistline can't handle it. 
So please, be patient with yourself. Wean yourself back from the sweets, increase your water intake t and make a conscious effort to choose foods from all food groups. Throughout the month, if you take the time to notice how your body is adjusting to a more balanced diet - you may be surprised to find your moods and energy levels are starting to level out as well.
Set some realistic goals for January. "New Year: New You" sounds shiny and fun but also overwhelming and like a lot of hard work. Instead of saying to yourself, "in 2020 I'm going to be skinny, wealthy, and happy," you owe it to yourself to take the time to define exactly what each of those things means to you. 
You might find that being happy means carving out more time for being outdoors or being skinny means you finally commit to that dance class every other week you've been thinking about all your adult life. Wealthy can start as simply as committing yourself to track exactly where you spend your money for a whole month. (Bonus tip: two things most self-made millionaires will you tell are if you don't have a plan for your money, it will make a plan for you, and they didn't become millionaires overnight.) So get out some paper or the notes app on your iPhone and figure out what you can achieve in January that will set the tone and trajectory for the rest of your year. This new burst of plans and energy can help get you through the winter slump.
Be honest about what you're feeling and what you experienced during the holidays. The season certainly can bring out the best in people, but it should also be acknowledged that not everyone experiences candy canes and dreams come true on December 25. The stress of the season can certainly bring out the worst in yourself and others around you. 
If you found yourself fighting more with your loved ones, indulging in too much eggnog to distract yourself from holiday pain, or dreading the turn of the calendar because you didn't keep your resolutions from last year, a therapist might be your next best step. 
A licensed counselor can work with you from a variety of modalities that meet you where you are and help you get to where you want to go. I always say: finding a good counselor is like finding a good pair of shoes, different fits for different people. Check out the therapist directory at psychologtoday.com, look up your company's employee assistance program, or ask at your next doctor's appointment how to find the right therapist for you. It could be the best gift you give yourself in 2020