Ah, it is that time again. The longer dark days and the rains have set in. The holiday season is in full dance and most look forward to a break in the everyday routines. While I don’t want to be thought of as “the Grinch”, did you know research shows that long awaited time off could actually do more harm than good?
Dr. Victoria Revell, a chronobiologist at the University of Surrey in England coined the problem as ‘social jet lag’—the difference between biological time and external requirements. Social jet lag she says, is similar to jet lag and includes indigestion, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, clumsiness, feeling generally unwell, lack of energy, fatigue and irritability.
Some people have negative emotions associated with the holiday. Then they add a week or two of irregular sleep/eating patterns and all this folly sees people finding a return to January routines with lackluster.
Another effect of time off is often people do not realize why they feel the way they do until they have had a break. January means feeling forced to return to a routine fraught with musts, ‘have to’s, perhaps, maybe, should, shouldn’ts and most definitely short on time/money for some truly enjoyed activities.
The return becomes overwhelming.
The sum of the all this could mean a persons’ self-confidence and self worth take a big hit. And when people are down, their relationships also take a hit. Then a painful irony comes into being: that despite being surrounded by so many people, one ends up feeling so very alone and bewildered.
BUT, congratulations! Reading this article and gaining more awareness is the first step to a different January.
Other ideas are:
• Focus on a small number of things that can successfully completed. A major reason many people suffer when they go back into routine is the fact they spend the majority of the time chasing their tails and talking about what they are going to do. Being immediate, hands on and done can be energizing.
• Plan the next getaway. Down time is essential to keep feeling refreshed and recharged. Making plans is vital. So grab a calendar, lock in the next break, with two or three more throughout the year.
This will boost optimism, build anticipation and nourish the soul during the harder days. Remember to be prepared as that coming back will be difficult.
• Respect a two- to three-week window. Accept that the brain is still on holidays for the first few weeks, go easy and especially avoid making life changing/major decisions.
• Boost energy levels—have fun. Make a personal pact and perhaps include a few supportive friends to do self-care in a healthy, fun-filled way. Avoiding extreme ideas or behaviours, walk, swim, eat healthy and maintain regular sleep.
Hold close a Victor Hugo quote: “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”
Seek help if needed. While it is not unusual to feel a little down in January, if this continues for more than a few weeks it is a good idea to speak with a doctor (GP), a health professional or a therapist/counsellor.
Pamela Ana, MA & CCC, owns Wellness Matters Counselling and Psychotherapy.