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Coping with the post-holiday slump

Whether it’s the never-ending gray days or the comedown after holiday festivities – many people feel an extra strain on mental wellbeing in January and February.

PORTLAND, Ore. — As the month of January nears the end, many are feeling the post-holiday slump. Whether it's winding down from the holidays, stressing out about how much money was spent, in the grips of the gray day, or someone who just tends to struggle this time of year – you’re not alone.

“We have the big build up to the holidays and the fun and festivities, then it comes, and it peaks and in a blink of an eye it's gone,” said Regence Clinical Director of Behavioral Health Andree Miceli.

Sometimes feelings of increased anxiety and depression feel as though they’ve come out of nowhere, sometimes that strain has been building.

“So you may have been fine and all of a sudden mid-January comes and this is the last straw and it sets someone off,” Miceli said.

It isn’t just the snap back to reality post-holidays that can trigger this. An emotional comedown isn’t uncommon after the build up to any big moment or event.

“It doesn't have to be a holiday it can be any event you're planning, whether it's a big trip or a wedding, or a graduation or something that there's so much prep mentally and physically that that goes into it,” she said. “And then it's just gone like what do I have to show for it? It's just empty.”

The first step to feeling better, Miceli said, is to acknowledge your feelings: added stress, anxiety, sadness or isolation.  

“Don't try to ignore it, and that's true with anything. If we ignore it, it's not going to go away. It's just going to fester,” Miceli said.

She recommends switching up daily routines with a new activity or something enjoyable.

“Meeting friends that you might not have seen because of the busyness of the holidays, volunteering, trying a new activity; it's picking something that is personal to you and is of interest to you to it not just physically does something, but it changes your focus,” Miceli said.

However, getting in that mindset when already feeling in a hole isn’t always that simple. So break it into small steps.

Ask this question: “What is one thing I can do today that may take five minutes to get me out of this rut?”

Maybe that’s a mood booster of a walk outside, dancing to music, or something as simple as changing out of work-from-home-sweats and into an outfit that makes you feel comfortable.

“Once that happens it really does have a ripple effect,” Miceli said. “Okay, I got dressed up, maybe I could go down to the coffee shop?”

Other suggestions from Miceli: try making a list of priorities to help with motivation. It’s a tangible reminder and gives people a physical list to check off.

“It's kind of staring you at the in the face for accountability so that you know if you start to slip back and say, ‘Oh, I don't feel like it, I'm just staying my sweats and hibernate” this is staring you and saying, ‘No get dressed and get out the door,’” Miceli said.  

While there’s a lot of self-talk that goes into taking control of one's own mental wellbeing, Miceli suggest finding an accountability buddy.

“That doesn't mean you're weak or you can't do it on your own, but we all can benefit from that type of encouragement,” she said.

If feelings one is experiencing are disruptive to one's life — that person may not be doing the things they normally would. Their sleep or eating patterns are disrupted, more isolated — it may be time to reach out to a doctor for help.

“It really takes a lot to recognize it and admit it, but it's not a bad thing. It's just: I'm just having a harder time than usual this year, and that's OK. You know, I'm gonna do something about it,” Miceli said. “And as much as you’re recognizing changes in yourself, watch out for your friends and family as well.”

The National Suicide Prevention and Crisis line is 988.

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