Thursday, December 27, 2007

Post Christmas: the recovery begins

Most of us have started wrapping up the Christmas portion of the end-of-the-year holiday blitz and beginning to plan for New Year’s parties.

Unless your place of work closes for the full two weeks or you take vacation days now, you have probably started back to more typical schedules and routines. The shape of the days is becoming more predictable, the leftover foods and snacks are starting to dry-up, and gifts are starting to be used instead of being on display under the tree.

After all the weeks of hype and build-up and increasing stress things begin to decompress. In a way it is a relief to have the pressure removed from daily living. However, the initial void or vacuum can also feel depressing.

How can you transition from the build-up and execution of the Christmas holiday back to the regular life where Christmas and seasonal music doesn’t play 24/7; where there aren’t more parties than you have weekends; where the oven isn’t constantly on; or where you increasingly shave more and more hours from sleep to make the clock work?

Here are some suggestions to help welcome the transition in a more positive light and make room for the personal reflection that will aid a smoother adjustment:

1) Start by getting enough sleep every night and going to bed ready to sleep. For weeks sleeping time has been cheated either by reducing the time in bed or using the quiet to plan or problem solve. Sleep time is for rest and repair. Sleep deprivation can take the best situation and turn it on its head. So get enough rest at regular hours.

2) Move back to a regular meal schedule and cut down on snacking at will. The holidays are loaded with comfort foods of memory. These foods also subject our systems to a load of sugar, fat and calories they aren’t accustomed to processing. Move back to eating predictable foods on a predictable schedule and save the treats for dessert or set times.

3) Increase your hydration by drinking more plain water. In the north winter is drier anyway but the holidays entice us to drink more blended beverages. Not just too much alcohol but even sodas and punches, coffee and tea, and even milk and eggnog put a drain on fluid-levels the body needs to carry out its work of maintaining itself. If necessary make drinking some plain water a to-do item and check it off.

4) Reduce the amount of electronic media pollution. The holidays bring lots of music, TV specials, gift DVDs, and the loudest things, the video games. Make a point of everyday setting aside a half-hour or an hour, two if you can spare it, to just bask in silence or in only people generated sounds. Use the time to nap, or read, or walk a nature trail. That also means turn off the phone, the PDA and the computer. Just unplug for a bit.

5) Move away from constant crowd and mob interactions. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get all of next year’s cards and paper now. Also, New Years will not fail to arrive if you don’t take in every activity at First Night or any other New Year’s Eve party. Plan your forays into public areas either before or after the peak hours. For New Year’s Eve have a few close friends over for board games and a carry-in supper instead of an all-night blitz with everyone you think you owe an invitation.

6) Call a trusted friend. Make arrangements now that there is a friend you can call for a reality check when you are too overwhelmed by the transition.

No plan will guarantee that the transition back to regular life after the holidays will be free of emotional let down. Having a plan of action should help interpret and deal appropriately with those moments of let down when they do come.

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