Structure and routine are crucial when getting over a holiday hangover

According to an SFU adjunct professor, quickly getting back into a routine can lessen the difficulty of returning to the classroom after weeks of holiday feasting, socializing, and general merrymaking.

Psychologist and SFU adjunct professor Joti Samra explains why returning to the daily grind in the new year is so tough, and what you can do to make the transition easier.

Samra said that the month of December is different for most people in regards to their day-to-day activities. They change their sleep patterns, their diet, and their exercise habits, which can make returning to a regular routine jarring.

“If we go weeks with having our usual structure and routine off, it’s quite hard for us to get back to it,” Samra stated. “We’re creatures of habit, as human beings, and we like structure and routine. When that routine is off, it’s hard to get back into the flow of things again.”

After the break, people typically experience an excess of fatigue and a lack of motivation. “A lot of people feel this kind of let-down after Christmas.” she said. “They’ve been a lot more social, seeing people that they like and love, and they really enjoy that.”

Samra continued, “All of the sudden, it’s back to responsibility, back to bills, back to usual routine.”

She went on to say that the post-holiday blues is often not only the result of indulgement, but also the stress of the season: “It can be a difficult time of year. There might be stresses that come along with the holiday season, with family and financial stresses being at the top of the list.”

Combining those stresses with the fact that days are shorter and the weather is consistently bleak makes for several factors that contribute to a sort of slump after the break.

Samra offered The Peak some pointers on how to minimize the holiday hangover and to ease yourself back into work or school. “An important thing is to manage your expectations and to remind yourself that most of us usually feel like this every year,” she advised.

She encouraged people to take “good measures for self-care” and also warned to be “mindful of the usual suspects” that can interrupt your healthy lifestyle, such as sleep, exercise, diet, and alcohol intake.

“Remind yourself that the semester will go fast, and if you’re taking good measures for self-care — eating healthy, exercising, managing your stress levels — all of that can help make it go smoother,” she said.

Samra’s last piece of advice was to incorporate what was enjoyable about the holidays into your regular routine. She concluded, “Scheduling in rest breaks [and] social activities that give you a kind of reprieve from the usual grind of school can just recharge you, and help you feel a bit more rejuvenated for more studying.”