For me, it is inevitable: Every year after the holidays, I experience a drop. I feel sadder, more irritable, exhausted, and a little withdrawn. And it makes sense, if you really think about it.
With each new school year in September, the buzzing begins — new classes, new students, new experiences. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s yet another new beginning. It gives me hope in a way that all beginnings do. Then it’s October: Halloween! Costume planning and executing. Candy. Parties. Buzzing. More candy. Excitement. November rolls around with Thanksgiving. Planning. Cooking. Family. Buzzing. Eating. Indulging.
Then my favorite season of all: Christmas shopping. But really, who am I kidding? I started Christmas shopping in October. I carefully scour the good deals. I secure the “best presents ever” for each person. Multiple times. Buzzing with each purchase. And then December and Christmas Eve and Day. I love all of it. Decorating. Baking Cookies. Decorating the cookies. Buzzing. Baking pies. Eating. Laughing. Watching Christmas movies. Still buzzing. Anticipating Santa Claus and his arrival at our home.
When Christmas morning arrives, I am at my highest, excitedly watching each person open their gifts, reveling in each squeal of excitement. Forgetting to capture any of it with my camera. Buzzing. And while this year has been different, and we will not be celebrating with family in the ways we have in the past, I’ve still been buzzing. Buying, decorating, visiting light displays, taking it all in. Precariously riding the roller coaster up to its highest point with a fervor unmatched by any other time of year.
At that moment of greatest excitement, the climax of Christmas Day, I feel happy, alive, and so very thankful for my loved ones. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
But then it’s over. And the drop begins. At least for the week leading up to the new year. There’s no real preparation, anticipation, or excitement quite like that which started in the fall and led up to December. My mood begins to drop. It’s the end of another year. What have I accomplished? What happened to 2020’s resolutions? (They probably went in the toilet with everything else in 2020!)
I have the magical ability to turn reflection and downtime into a pity party. Earlier this month, it occurred to me that the time after the holidays is one I struggle with year after year. I began to brainstorm a way to prevent my post-holiday slump. I considered how to avoid feeling down, because after all, I had plenty to be grateful for, even in a dumpster-fire year like 2020. (Although, if there is a year to feel badly about, this is the one, and we all deserve a free pass.)
I wrote in my journal: “How to Avoid the Post-Holiday Drop.” But nothing came. After a week of considering it, I realized that the answer wasn’t to prevent or avoid it. I’ve tried to prevent and avoid unhappy feelings in the past. Spoiler alert: Avoiding feelings does not make them go away. In fact, in my experience, avoiding and ignoring my feelings only seems to compound them.
So I crossed out my title and rewrote it: “How to Prepare for the Post-Holiday Drop.” Through years of work on myself, I’ve learned that I have to feel my feelings in order to let them go. So I started a list of things to do after the holidays to help me feel my feelings, let them go, and to also be kind to myself in the process.
Recognizing the drop and embracing it is something I’ve never tried. I don’t know if it will work, but I am hopeful. I have a plan in place, including exercise, massage, meditation, and safe socialization. I know the drop will happen, the buzzing will end, and the new year will begin and go on. I know I don’t have to prevent or avoid how I feel in order to function in everyday life. I know I will make it through this time of year that follows the holidays; I have for 38 years before this. My hope is that I can weather the drop and buffer my descent with self-care and awareness, knowing the ascent will come with sunshine and spring — and possibly even sooner this year.