Having a peaceful life is better than living a life that has drama-fuelled relationships and tons of stuff to care for. Image Credit: Supplied picture

It is always waiting to happen and it invades your home with remarkable stealth. Even before the last sounds of a rambunctious party have had a chance to die down, it hits you – the post-festivity depression.

Wasn’t it only a month ago that you were happily drawing up to-do lists for parties, buying gifts, sprucing up your home, delegating tasks to every family member, adding points to the checklist stuck to the refrigerator, sms-ing revised grocery lists to the spouse, clearing junk from the guest bedroom closet to make space for visiting relatives and trying your hand at baking helix-shaped sugar cookies?

That was surely a magical whirlwind. But it’s all over now. The calm after that glorious storm is unsettling. In fact, it could be positively depressing.

There’s something heady about festivals and festivities and there’s something utterly deflating about picking up after the festivities are done.

However, the return to routine can be as smooth or as bumpy as you make it. The holidays may be over, but the holiday spirit need not be. It is always inside of you; you simply have to be able to feel it.

Many behavioural experts believe that the happiness alert is always ready to pop up so long as you know how to set it. Happiness does not have to depend on a certain date, event, fancy confetti and sweet treats. It is something we can nurture in us, every day, every month.

Friday asks a life coach, a motivational corporate guru, a spiritual master, a psychologist and nutritionist each to give us five tips that can help us remain centred in our mind, body and spirit all year long. 

Beat the emotional blues

Dubai-based cognitive psychologist and academician, Dr Annie Crookes suggests ways to beat the January blues:

  • Identify and challenge negative thoughts: According to cognitive theories of depression and self-esteem, we have automatic negative thoughts – ‘I can’t do it’ – which stop us from facing challenges. We may also see small problems in our lives as internal (‘it’s my fault’); universal (‘everything about my life is bad’); and stable (‘it will always be like this.’). If you can be aware of when your mind gets on to this track and tell yourself [the thoughts] are not necessarily true, then your problems will not seem as overwhelming.
  • Turn the frown upside down: There is evidence that feeling blue is not only entirely normal but may also have positive benefits. So if you are feeling low after the festive season, remind yourself that this is a normal and important part of your emotional life and try to use the focus it brings you to help you at work or perhaps to balance your post-festivities budget.
  • One step at a time: Research on New Year’s resolutions show that people who set multiple resolutions are setting themselves up for failure. The problem with sweeping changes (‘I will get skinny’; ‘I will get fit’; ‘I will spend less’) is that they are vague, too long term and unrealistic in measurable ways. So take the time in January to break down these goals into specific tasks which you can schedule weekly. As you tick off the smaller, concrete tasks, you will feel a sense of achievement in the short term which motivates you to keep going for a long period.
  • The power of others: The parties may be over by January and the visiting families may have left, but your friends are still around and you don’t need a festive occasion to get together. Use the power of social support to help you talk through your problems. So, you may think you want to just sit on your couch and wallow, but don’t.
  • Face your fears: When the festive season is over we often feel exposed to the harsh realities of our overindulgences and the problems we may have put on hold for the holidays. The January blues are full of worry, fear and regret which are usually fought off with procrastination and denial in alternating cycles. Psychology generally supports that facing challenges head-on and dealing with fear directly helps us gain resilience.  

Get the work-life balance

Corporate guru, Mike Atack thinks if the work routine is what is causing the onset of the blues, one needs to take stock and tidy out that department for a more efficient and effortless performance. “The challenge of leadership is to create the ambience, climate or culture that makes people feel vital, authentic and contributing to others in the workplace. No mean task in big, historically badly managed organisations. But that is the challenge.” He suggests taking a good look at workplace scenarios to take away the monotony and get the smile going.

  • Make the workplace inspiring: Good leaders have a clear and accurate sense of their own and their follower’s needs. They know that all those mission statement wish-lists about commitment, involvement and passion can only be achieved if the organisational ambience is right. This ambience or climate must inspire people to give their best. That is the job of the leader.
  • Recognise the emotional needs of your colleagues: People at work have powerful, universal needs. Managers who understand this and try to fulfil them, inevitably have happier and more productive teams. Maybe that is why the concept of emotional as opposed to academic or intellectual intelligence has been so popular.
  • Give your staff the gift of trust: Everyone needs a feeling of personal control, of self-determination, of the idea that they have a say in what they are doing and where they are going. Managers, however, have to trust their staff enough to give them control. Powerlessness, and its bedfellows helplessness and hopelessness, can cause major stress.
  • Nurture the community spirit in the workplace: We are all social animals who thrive on social contact and support. People who feel valued, trusted and respected in their work-teams form happy, cohesive and productive groups. Celebrate the difference among people’s talents and abilities. Everybody at work also needs to believe that they personally make a difference, that they have an impact on organisational outcomes. People may be links in a chain, but each is fundamental and everyone’s contribution is important.
  • Do not take away from a fundamental sense of personal competence. Robbing people of their self-esteem, their self-belief and their sense of self-confidence to do everyday tasks has acute and chronic consequences. People of all ages like to feel that they are competent at their tasks but that they can grow, learn new things and develop. Antipathy to training and change at work lie at the heart of self-confidence.
  • Bring fun back into your work: An organisation that banishes or disapproves of playfulness stifles its creativity and innovativeness. Excitement, enjoyment, exploration and entrepreneurship are closely related. Real laughter at work maybe the best index of its morale, among other things.  

Battle that bulge

Nutritionist Carole Holditch suggests we need to literally bounce back into health after our holiday indulgences, which is the key to beating the post-holiday blues. “When all
is said, done and devoured, pull out the following recovery tips and get your weight loss programme – and your body – back in motion.

  • Make a plan: One of the worst parts of a food hangover is the helpless feeling that you have lost control. But remember: you are in command of what you eat. Write down just how rotten you feel now compared with how good you felt before being surrounded by all those high-calorie delicacies, and then write down how you want to feel. You want to feel energetic, not lethargic; confident in yourself, not ashamed of your body. Spell out your eating and exercise plan for the day and get going.
  • Don’t let the ‘lapse become a collapse’: When temptation strikes, think twice before you bite. This week, it might seem perfectly reasonable to polish off those leftover chocolates. But one lapse leads to another and, before you know it, it’s a full-blown collapse. Also, if you’re craving more goodies, take a 10-minute time-out to examine your feelings. Are you really just bored, tired, or lonely? If emotions are fuelling your hunger, try a healthy alternative like a brisk walk first. Chances are that the urge will go away.
  • Hide the scale: You won’t like what you see. A combination of fat, sugar and salt, among other things, leads to bloating and fluid retention, pushing the number on the scale even higher. Don’t panic. A few days of healthy eating, drinking plenty of water and regular exercise will give you a true reflection of your weight. 
  • Work out, but not till you pass out: It would take days of running, swimming or frantic aerobics to burn off the kind of excess calories provided by just one piece of Christmas pudding. But you don’t have to burn it all off at once – that kind of thinking just sets you up to fail... and possibly seek solace in cake! You should definitely exercise, but don’t punish yourself. Stick with a light cardiovascular workout, like walking or jogging. Think of exercise as a tension reducer and a way to get back in touch with your body rather than the price you have to pay for being “bad”. Don’t starve yourself either. Try eating smaller, balanced meals evenly distributed throughout your day – and keep it up!
  • Drink water! Drink water! Drink water! Rather than rushing to the scale to assess how much damage you’ve done, get a glass of water. And then another. And another. Keep drinking water throughout the day. Water is a natural diuretic and thus a great way to wash away those toxins and prevent fluid retention. You could start by drinking warm water with lemon. Warm water is less shocking to your system and the citric acid jumpstarts your digestion.’’  

Look for the silver lining

“I learnt quite a few years ago to look on the bright side of life and practise positive psychology, so to me I’m on a constant quest to find the good in everything and the learning. The good thing about being “post” the holiday season is that the festive season is over for another year, and you can finally take a deep breath and relax and think about how exciting 2011 is going to be,’’ says Julie Ann Odell, life coach and drummer. “I think the following tips really make for simple living and loving and happiness:

  • Be alive: Find opportunities in your problems. The greatest learning usually comes from the things in life that challenge us the most. It is a matter of perspective and being alive is to be part of the school of life.
  • Be grateful: Be grateful that you exist and for all the goodness in your life. The more grateful you are, the more you attract great things into your life.
  • Be balanced: Many people live their lives with no idea of work/life balance. Being happy and loving your life needs a good balance of both the worlds. Every time you focus on creating balance, you will be happier about your life.
  • Value love and/or friendship: Value the loved ones in your life and make the most of time spent with them. A truly nurtured and valued friendship/love is worth way more than anything material that you could wish for.
  • Live a simple life: Be your own best friend. Have self-awareness and love yourself for your strengths and your weaknesses, and look at your weaknesses as the areas where you can learn and grow.  Don’t beat up on yourself and do not judge yourself; ask yourself what is going on inside and bring the awareness to within, as whatever you want from the outside world needs to begin first with the inside world.  Keep a sense of humour, and don’t take things personally. Complicating their lives is the prime reason for people being unhappy. Having a peaceful life is actually way better than living a life that has drama-fuelled relationships and tons of stuff to care for. Aim for a simpler and minimalistic approach towards your life. Go for things that are simple and make you happy and enjoy and live the moment. Be at peace with yourself, with others and with God.  

Nourish your mind

Art of Living teacher Rugmani Prabhakar says it is important to be centred and look inward to find peace and contentment that lasts forever.

  • Make yoga and meditation a part of your life whether you are on a holiday or in your normal daily routine. The stillness that you achieve from these practices becomes the intrinsic thread that makes the transition from fun time to work time effortless.
  • Holiday time gives you a bird’s-eye perspective on your life as a whole. So when [the parties are over], it’s a great opportunity for a fresh start on so many aspects of your life.
  • Uncluttered by the stresses of your normal routine, holidays are a great time to explore new dimensions within yourself and in your relationships with the people you are holidaying with. The post-holiday period provides a whole new platform for intimacy, honesty, creativity and trust all round.
  • Make healthy lifestyle and eating choices right through your holiday. This helps optimise your own experience during your holiday and also helps avoid the effort of losing those extra kilos and detoxifying your body and mind after the break.
  • Most important, remember that the best, most restful and peaceful holiday you can ever have is in that silent space within you. Yoga, breathing techniques and meditation can help you make every day a holiday wherever you are!

– Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary is senior features writer, Friday