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Grandparents and the Post-Holiday Blues

Get Yourself Together Instead of Falling Apart



When the grandkids go out the door, depression sometimes comes in behind them.

Photo © SW Productions / Getty

Grandparents fill several important roles during the holidays. They are often the guardians of family traditions, the coordinators of holiday plans and the hosts of holiday celebrations. These functions may be in addition to being expected to be consummate gift-givers and the authority on traditional holiday foods. Is it any wonder that after the holidays we often suffer from exhaustion and the post-holiday blues? Sometimes we're not even sure why we feel sad. Understanding why and knowing some remedies can shorten the blues and get us back to our usual happy selves.

Causes of Post-Holiday Blues

It's natural to have a let-down after the holidays. Grandparents are often fatigued from traveling or from hosting family gatherings, as well as from shopping. Post-holiday chores such as putting away decorations can loom large when you are already tired. Besides physical exhaustion, grandparents often suffer from a feeling that things didn't go as well as they should have. You may blame yourself for not getting everything exactly right. Long-distance grandparents have special emotional issues that are often exacerbated by the demands of the holidays.

An obvious first step in overcoming the holiday blues is to recognize that family celebrations are fraught with opportunities for error and to forgive yourself for any missteps. While the holidays are fresh on your mind, give some thought to what you want to do differently next time. Constructive planning is innately cheering, but you'll also need activities that will help to switch your focus away from the holidays. After all, your life should not revolve around a few weeks out of the year.

Do Whatever Makes You Happy

After spending a month or so thinking of the needs and desires of others, it's time to concentrate on yourself for a change. That's not selfish, because you need to maintain good physical health and mental stability to be the best grandparent you can be.

  • Get Some Exercise. In addition to all of the usual benefits of exercise, it will help you lose any weight that you put on as a result of all the holiday goodies. Exercise is a proven mood elevator. My personal favorite for beating the holiday blues is hitting the nearest heated pool for swimming or water exercise, because I associate the water with summer and beaches and vacation time.
  • Consider a Getaway. If you have the money and the health to do so, January is perfect for travel. Some grandparents enjoy skiing, snowmobiling or other winter activities. If you are more of a fair-weather fan, a trip down south and some sun will do you a world of good. If you can't get away for an extended trip, consider spending a couple of nights in a nice hotel and catching a movie, play or other performance. A spa visit can also be rejuvenating.
  • Feed Your Spirit. Some people find spiritual renewal through worship or meditation. Others may find rejuvenation through experiencing nature, listening to music or reading. Chances are that the holidays didn't give you much time for contemplation. Do it now.
  • Don't Run Away From Responsibility. If you overspent on gifts, don't put off opening the bills and paying up. You'll just add more stress if you miss payments. If you put off routine chores during the Christmas rush, go ahead and take care of them. Make a list and try to mark off one or two tasks each day. The sense of accomplishment will make the effort worthwhile.
  • Find Reasons to Laugh. The best laughter is that which arises spontaneously, from your own life experiences, but sometimes we have to help it along. If everything that is happening in your own life seems more tragic than comic, find something funny to watch or listen to. Not only will you reap the benefits of laughter, but your own problems will seem less serious.
  • Stay Connected. Maybe it seems silly to phone your kids when you just spent several days with them. Do it anyway. Have lunch with your best buddies. Email a friend you haven't heard from lately. When one is depressed, the tendency is to withdraw, but fighting that tendency brings its own reward.
  • Do Something For Someone Else. As hackneyed as this advice may be, it really works. While lots of people think altruistically during the holiday season, the interest may decline and the need may climb in the post-holiday season. Volunteering at a shelter may be especially appreciated, as winter is usually the time when they experience the most demand for their services.

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