What day is it? Who cares!
The Christmas decorations are down, but the Aussie flag tattoos aren’t plastered on kids’ faces yet. Early-mid January is like the Sahara of the summer holidays. It’s hot and seems to span forever. Days roll into one another and ‘Back to School’ ads are a cruel mirage on the horizon. While there’s much to enjoy about this time of year, it can also bring feelings of anxiety, loneliness, restlessness or depression.
In my first few years of full-time teaching, after the initial rush of holidays departed, the ‘holiday blues’ would inevitably strike. I’d fill my nights with drinks or other social plans (because most of my friends worked during the day). I'd sleep in, perhaps watch a couple of episodes of a TV series, before taking a nap in the afternoon and beginning a similar cycle again. And I felt generally blue or anxious, not being able to put my finger on why, and then feel guilty for being low during a holiday. Yeeesh! Not a pleasant holiday cocktail!
Eventually, I confessed this to a good teacher friend and he admitted feeling bouts of the holiday blues too. In discussing it with other educator friends, many agreed that they had felt a form of the holidays blues at some point, and some with children said their kids seemed to get the same way.
What’s the deal? I know we love holidays and taking a break, so why are we down in the dumps?
Well, one reason may be that we’re used to being busy all of the time, and usually have a tight schedule and routine. With holidays, that structure has been taken away and we’re left hanging, feeling like we should be busy and then guilty and anxious that we’re not.
It might also be that in the holidays we have more time for our minds to race and to worry about things (real or imagined) that we just don’t have time to think about during the term.
So, how can we manage the holiday blues?
1. Acknowledge how you feel
Don’t just avoid the feels by drinking too much and filling in every single moment with frantic activity, TV or sleep. If you’re feeling low in the holidays (or indeed at any time) begin by acknowledging you’re feeling a bit crappy.
You might like to try putting your hand on your chest and saying to yourself, “I know that right now you’re feeling a bit down, and that’s okay.”
You may choose to talk about it with a friend or loved one. Choose wisely though, it’s important to have someone who can provide an “I know how you feel” response instead of “Oh, poor you, feeling sad on your holiday?”
2. Rise and shine
Having a regular sleep routine helps to balance the hormones in our body that help with health and happiness. Going to bed at the same reasonable hour each night, and then getting up at the same time each day can help our melatonin and serotonin levels. It can also be useful to eat at around the same times each day.
If you're having trouble getting to sleep, make sure you've got good 'sleep hygiene' or seek help from your GP.
3. Get sweaty
Get out and get moving! Go for a walk/swim/cycle/dance/climb/canoe. Exercise helps our health and wellbeing so working up a sweat is a perfect way to help bust your blues bubble.
Why not try something different? Search for a sweet kayaking deal, or find a bush walk you haven’t done before.
4. Action is magic
Have you been sitting in your underwear, eating icy poles, watching your fifth hour of Game of Thrones only to be startled that a whole day has passed as your housemate/husband/child comes home? Mm…yep, been there!
Passive activities like scrolling through social media, watching TV or reading can all be a good break in your day. However, if you’re feeling the symptoms of the holiday blues, try doing something active instead. Cook, write, draw, sew, scrub, walk, paint, create, plan, drive, wash, garden, explore. Get up and do something. Anything!
5. Stay connected
Catching up with friends and being social can help us to feel good. This can be tricky if you have children that you’re keeping busy or if many of your friends aren’t teachers and are at work while you’re on holidays. So, find ways that you can connect face-to-face:
- Organise an activity with teacher friends
- Find an interest group to join in your local area
- Meet office-working friends for lunch
- Ask friends with kids around so that your kids can play while you hang out
- Try out a fitness class or gym
- Go to a talk, lecture or tour at a museum or gallery, and strike up conversation with other participants
- Meet friends with children in a park so the kids can play while you walk or chat
6. Be aware of the booze
Cocktails at lunch, beers at sunset, wine with dinner and a cheeky nightcap?
If you find that you’re drinking a lot most or every day because you’re bored, anxious or depressed, take a break for a few days. Maybe go to a movie or find an activity that doesn’t involve drinking.
Alcohol is a depressant and while it may make you feel better while you’re having the drink, it can certainly have immediate and long-term effects on your mental (and physical) health.
7. Find something to look forward to
Big trip planned later in the year? A friend’s wedding in June? A visit with your neighbour’s new puppy, Gilligan? Author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, suggests that finding things – both big and small – to look forward to can help fuel our feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
8. Find space to meditate
The holidays are the perfect time to begin a mindfulness meditation practice. Meditation can help us to take a step back from feelings of anxiety. It can also allow us to enjoy our experiences more fully. Try meditating for 5-10 minutes each day.
9. Check in with friends
Often, we feel like we’re the only people on the planet feeling a certain way. But of course, we are not islands floating in an empty sea. Most people experience similar feelings at some point.
My holiday blues shifted considerably once I realised there were others who felt the same way. Get in touch with your teacher buddies and genuinely ask how they’re doing. You may like to share this article with them. That way, you can support each other through the desert and into the school year.
If you’re feeling a bout of the holiday blues, try out the strategies listed above and share below what worked for you. If you have any other suggestions to improve your wellbeing in the holidays, share them in the comments box below too!
And if you believe that your anxiety or depression is beyond a case of the blues, talk to your GP or head over to Beyond Blue.
PS. Want more like this? Sign up to the newsletter.
To receive blog updates straight to your virtual pigeon hole, sign up here.