3 psychologists give advice for getting over the "holiday hangover" 

The "holiday hangover" is real, but it doesn't have to last.

christmas family

The “holiday hangover” is the period of time after the holidays where you have to go back to real life. There are no more sugar cookies and no “I Love Sausage Rolls” songs. If the “holiday blues” sits on one side of the coin, the “holiday hangover” is stamped on the other.

It’s a real thing. According to a survey of 2,000 British adults, it takes an average of four days to adjust to work after the holiday period. Within this group, 44 percent said they suffered from “January blues,” and 52 percent said they would be at work in body but not “in mind.”

And sure, the Brits seem to really, really love the holidays (they gave us Love Actually after all), but it’s something worth talking about. How do you return to work when holiday fun is done? Here’s some practical, expert-backed advice.

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Stay active, stay focused

Psychologist Dr. Melanie Badali says that “although this is often the last thing people want to do at this time of year, especially if you live in a place where it’s dark and rainy like me,” increasing your physical activity can help you feel better and less tired. Badali says another strategy is changing your perspective: If you want to watch Netflix, then watch Netflix and view that activity as an act of self-care rather than an act of sloth.

“If you have some down time after the holidays, this is normal,” Badali says. “Be kind to yourself and remember hangovers do not last forever.”

Keep it real

Dr. Ryan DeLapp, an attending psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center, tells me that, in short, he finds one underlying issue that contributes to the “holiday hangover” has to do with unrealistic expectations.

“Without a doubt, the return to a mountain of unanswered emails and a growing to-do list can be overwhelming,” DeLapp says. “But what can add to this overwhelming sense is if individuals personally impose unrealistic expectations about a timeline to readjust to work-life and get caught up.”

Christmas Mess
Christmas is over. Now what do you do?

He explains that in dialectical behavioral therapy — a type of cognitive behavioral therapy — there’s a skillset known as “radical acceptance” that hinges on the idea that one is more willing to engage in difficult experiences after they accept the unchangeable expectations of themselves and their environment.

To do this, DeLapp says, you can ask yourself questions like: What can I realistically expect to accomplish today? What resources [like family and co-workers] are available to me that can help me tolerate the emotional highs and lows?

You do you

Clinical psychologist Dr. Vaile Wright tells me that feeling the blues after the holidays is not that uncommon, so instead of fighting it, “I encourage people to give themselves permission to just feel how they are feeling.”

She says that it’s important to remember that no feeling is final. A holiday hangover will go away eventually.

A version of this article also appears in the Sunday Scaries newsletter. Sign up for free to receive it on Sundays.