The calendar page has turned from December to January and another holiday season is in the rear-view mirror. If your holidays were anything like mine then you might be feeling a bit of a hangover from all of the overindulging of the last few weeks. It’s easy to get caught up while in the thick of the season and come out of December more stressed than when you went in. In my case this stems from a few different areas you might relate to: spending on gifts and other things, holiday travel, enjoying too many special treats at holiday get-togethers, and children gone feral after two weeks of too-much sugar and not enough routine.

    It’s easier than ever to spend more than you planned these days and that’s especially true during the Christmas shopping season. With every retailer touting their best prices of the year during black Friday, and again on cyber Monday, and yet again on the final weekend before Christmas (funny how that works), it just makes sense to pick up a few things for yourself while you’re at it. All of this can lead to a painful shock in January when you receive your credit card bill. This is another point for using cash for your purchases when you can, since it helps prevent adding on just “one more thing” that you probably didn’t need or budget for.

    There’s not much good to be said about traveling for the holidays. Icy roads, flight delays, and sleeping in a bed that’s a size or two smaller than what you’re used to at home (god bless those of you sleeping on an air mattress). But we endure it all to be with those we love this time of year. As we get older the guest beds become harder to endure and the prospect of not making the trip so we can sleep in our own house is that much more desirable. But for now, our boys are four and six years old and we feel fortunate that we are in a position where we can travel and they can spend the holidays playing with their cousins and being spoiled by their grandparents. I guess one silver lining is that after all of the time away, the first night back in your own bed is some of the best sleep you’ll have all year (absence does make the heart grow fonder after all).

    If your family is anything like mine, the holidays can seem like a competitive eating event staged over the course of two weeks. It’s hard not to overindulge when there are so many events and get-togethers where it seems the main purpose is to try to consume as many cakes, cookies, pies, and other sweet things as possible. The general consensus seems to be that any health eating habits can wait until everybody starts dieting with their new year’s resolutions. 

    Reading the preceding paragraphs might give you the impression that I’m a scrooge who doesn’t enjoy the holidays and only focuses on the downside of it all. But that’s part of what makes the January hangover so real. I have the memories of the time spent with family and giving and receiving gifts, but as the glow from those experiences fades we need to deal with the effects of our overindulgence, lack of sleep and higher than normal (or anticipated) bills coming due. So, what can we do about it?

    Well it’s no surprise that January is the biggest month for new gym signups and participation, and that Dry January is a new trend that people are jumping on as well. For most folks though, I recommend focusing on the basics rather than starting a new routine and hoping you’ll stick with it. If your budget feels stretched, and you feel stressed, use that as motivation to get back to basics and focus on a routine that works for you. One thing we’re doing in our household is preparing healthy meal plans for a week or more ahead of time to prevent falling back on going out for lunch or dinner.

    If you feel you have to try something bold to make a new start, like sign up for a new exercise class, try out a whole 30 or keto diet, or commit to a no-spend or dry January, then give yourself the best shot at sticking with it that you can by finding a way to hold yourself accountable. Some good ways to do this are to find a friend or partner that will participate with you so you can keep each other honest. If no one wants to join you, you can still ask a friend to hold you to your goal, or make a public announcement that you will donate money to a cause you dislike if you start to slack off. There’s a reason so many New Year’s resolutions never make it to February, but having an accountability partner or consequence can go a long way towards ensuring your success.

    Good luck to all of you. We made it through the holidays, we can make it through this too.