For most, the holiday season is brutal. Sure, you enjoy valuable time with beloved family and friends, you gobble up delicious treats you almost never eat, and you gain the pleasure of offering and receiving special gifts. Yet, after December 31, you have to go right back to real life — and often, the transition hurts.
This year, you can use this holiday recovery plan to get back on your feet — physically, financially, and emotionally — without any aches or pains.
No one ― really, no one ― will deny that Christmas is expensive. In 2014, the average family with kids spent more than $870 on gifts alone, though that number can increase by as much as $500 depending on location or annual income. Additionally, that figure fails to include other major expenses during the holidays, including grocery bills, the costs of travel, and unpaid vacation days, which can drain $500 more from already empty bank accounts. Many American families wrack up incredible amounts of holiday credit debt in an attempt to make their holidays happy.
Thankfully, you don’t have to spend the 11 months before the next holiday season paying down your debt ― as long as you practice smart spending in the first few weeks of the New Year. First, if your debt is unusually high, you should consider transferring it to low-interest cards that make paying debt faster easier. Meanwhile, you can get a head start on spring cleaning by purging your closets of unused items and selling them; this provides extra income and extra space for your new toys. Finally, set aside your credit cards for a while and enjoy free or low-cost activities while your wallet recovers. For example, you can:
- Rent books and movies from the library instead of bookstores and paid services
- Prepare meals ahead of time instead of eating out for lunch and dinner
- Host casual get-togethers with cheap entertainment, like board games
Celebration is central to the holiday season, and celebration means feasting. Unfortunately, the line between festive indulgence and gluttony is thin, and even before New Year’s Day, many people are feeling the strain of their belt buckles. Worse, after a week or two of enjoying decadent sweet and fatty treats, it can be difficult to break the cycle and return to more moderate eating habits ― despite the ever-increasing bloat around your midsection.
Thankfully, it is never too late to return to a healthy lifestyle. Beginning January 1 (or as soon as you can) you can put your waistline worries to rest with a dedicated fitness plan. First, you should try to detoxify your body with plenty of hydrating beverages like water and tea. You should stay away from the Christmas cookie tins and opt for natural, whole foods like fruits and vegetables for every meal. Sleep is essential to weight loss, and keeping your stress low will help you shed fat and gain muscle faster.
Finally, you must return to the gym ― no matter how hard it is to reach your sneakers ― and get active. Though at first you may feel slower and weaker after your holiday break, your body will eventually regain the strength and stamina you need for a healthy lifestyle.
The most insidious consequence of the holidays ― the one that can prevent effective saving and spending as well as contribute to winter weight gain ― is one that many people rarely recognize: depression.
During the season, most people enjoy unprecedented numbers of parties, relaxed restrictions on revelry like food and drink, and near-constant connection with friends and family, but come January 2, it all abruptly ends. The empty schedule for the coming weeks, especially compared to the fun and festivities of the previous month, usually causes a post-holiday crash, during which your attitude takes a turn for the worse. The minor depression you experience when the holidays conclude make returning to reality (and making smart decisions regarding finances and fitness) remarkably difficult.
Some experts claim that the best remedy for the post-holiday blues is a daring New Year’s resolution, like “learn another language” or “change career paths.” You might also consider planning a few small parties with close friends to remind yourself that you still have a social life after the holidays end. No matter how you treat your depression, you should stay flexible and allow yourself some time to ease happily into regular, non-holiday life.