"It's all over now, baby blue." Bob Dylan may have been referring to the end of a love affair in that refrain, but it rings true for most of us after all the hoopla of the holidays. There is so much buzz, so much activity, during Christmas and New Year's celebrations, that just the lack of action after January 1 is enough to cause some people anxiety, feelings of disappointment and depression.
If you're one of those people who tends to succumb to the post-holiday blues, try simplifying your schedule and approaching the new year with a fresh anticipation of what's to come. Rather than focusing on creating a set of resolutions or goals, choose one thing that you'd like to do differently or change about your life. Picking -- and sticking to -- one goal is easier than five or six.
In addition to simplifying your goals, here are some tips for boosting your energy, mental health, and overall outlook on life for the new year:
1. If your holiday schedule had you overlooking your support-group community, go back to your AA meetings or another group that will help you with addictions that might have been activated during the holidays. With the stress of Christmas and increased party attendance, several of my patients started drinking again. I have found this to be a common occurrence with those struggling with addictive behavior.
2. Assess the damage excessive holiday shopping did to your bank account and establish a new savings plan. Regaining a sense of financial control can boost your mental health and alleviate stress. If necessary, seek the assistance of a financial counselor or money manager.
3. Join a new health club or hire a trainer to get back in shape. If you found you gained a few pounds over the holidays, then embrace January as the time to take those pounds off. If you can't afford a health club or trainer, get out and walk daily or walk up and down the stairs of your apartment house or office building. Exercise, even just 20 minutes several times per week, is one of the simplest ways to improve your mood and reduce anxiety.
4. If possible, plan a trip for January or February, and go to a place you haven't yet visited. A change of environment does wonders for your mood and forces your brain to change. In my experience, just having to deal with new places can activate different parts of our brains, and patients often report that a change in scenery (or place) elevates their mood.
5. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), be sure to get your sunny weekends away or engage in light therapy, which has shown to be helpful. If you can't afford a trip to Florida or one of the Caribbean islands, doctors recommend that you consider buying a light box (many are available through the Internet) and spend 20 to 30 minutes in front of it every day until your mood improves.
6. Make time for creativity in the new year. Perhaps you would like to start that journal or diary you have been thinking about. What about some art or pottery classes? Creativity stimulates new pathways in the brain and can elevate moods.
7. Music can stimulate the senses and lift your spirits. Neuroscientists such as Daniel J. Levitin continue to find that music enhances certain pathways in the brain that are essential to cognitive and emotional health. Dr. Levitin's 2006 book, This Is Your Brain on Music, describes some of his studies and conclusions about why we need music in our lives and why music is not just an incidental amusement for humankind.
Since many of us were either hyperactive or operating on accelerated schedules during the holidays, slowing down in these ways may prove helpful to you. Picking one of these tips and applying it to your life could help your brain modulate a calming neural pathway, thus improving your mood. Whatever you do, take the time to take care of yourself.