Yes, Boomers, there is this thing floating around called post-holiday funk, and it’s not a blues song but a very real thing. While I’ve been writing about all the good things associated with the New Year and the New Decade, there are a few boomers and seniors out there who are suffering from this malady, which really is a form of depression.
We look back at the holidays and all the activities, taking time out with friends, family, acquaintances and all the things material in your life, and then January arrives and it’s time to snap back into our lifestyle, or at least with new resolutions. Unfortunately, in many cases it’s easier said than done, for there are those who have a hard time recovering from the heightened level of holiday bliss then slipping to one of solitude and the mundane. If you’re having a difficult time getting back, feeling sluggish and unmotivated, you’re not alone. The good news, there are things you can do to get out of it.
I’m a big proponent in looking back at the old year and reflecting on all the good and not so good happenings and things that occurred. Then I try to learn from the not so good and hopefully not repeat them in the new year. On the contrary, I really do emphasize and focus on the good and try to set new goals and dreams surrounding that which I felt good about. The key, in my opinion, is not to allow yourself to think too long and hard about the not so good things, and about any failures you might have had, which can be quite disheartening. You second guess yourself about what you could have done differently, which can lead to depression, anxiety and sap your motivation.
Researchers and other professionals will tell you, don’t look back at all that you did, but rather at all the great things that resulted and were accomplished from what you did. In other words, look positively at the new relationships you built, the projects around the house you completed (maybe not in record time; my BoomerGuy and I say our projects always take longer to accomplish, but at least we get them done), and the new memories you created by getting out and about. Look to the new goals and treat them as new challenges and a new source of energy. We as boomers and seniors are not too old to learn, but it’s up to us.
In an upcoming blog, I will discuss the merits of what I call a metaphor for change. It talks about goal setting, but only eating the elephant one bite at a time. One of the mistakes we as seniors commit is making our resolutions, goals or objectives too large—simply too unmanageable. We get overwhelmed and then fail to achieve, which adds to the slow motion of our progress. Break them down, move what you can, and either file the rest and bring them up later, or forget about them. You will be much happier.
Here’s a SMALL example. We’ve had cold weather here in southern California, so my BoomerGuy and I moved all our valuable patio plants (which happen to be on rollers) under the overhang then covered them to protect from frost. Now that the weather is abundantly sunny and warming up, it’s time to move them back to their original spots. So I wrote down “move all the plants” as my magical goal, and guess, what they’re still under the overhang. The thought of moving all those plants was just so overwhelming, I did nothing. So, what did I do, I broke it down: 1) first hosed off the patio, 2) then moved just the succulents, 3) then the roses, 4) then the palms, 5) then the delicates, and voila, I’m done. Yes, it took me a couple of days, but it really felt good checking off five boxes rather than checking only one. I feel great! Look what I accomplished on my own.
Here’s another source of the dreaded blues you might have experienced after the holidays. We attended our Christmas Holidays knowing several members of the extended family are quite famous, and live in places like Lido Island and Newport Beach. You’ve got to have lots of dough to live there, and have very large lives. With this in mind, we often make comparisons to someone else. We look around and find others that have so much more, and the general tendency is for that to make us feel sad about ourselves. What happened, why didn’t we achieve what these people have. On the other side of ledger, however, we can always say with some certainty that we’re far better off than others, but then we ask ourselves, does that really make us feel good or is it a placeholder. The reason is that one can feel complacent and satisfied with the status quo—in other words, yeah we’ve done better than those folks so it’s alright if we skate and therefore not be motivated to continue pushing forward and doing better.
In either of these instances, the outcome for overcoming the “blues” is really quite simple. Yes, of course, do your comparisons, but realize you are who you are and simply look at yourself—I bet anything you’ve improved on certain things over this past year. I talk to boomers just like me and when I ask them to comment on that, they say their own evaluation continues to help them grow to new heights. A guy on the driving range said he quit reaching for the 250 yard marker, rather he went for the 200 with consistency, then 220, then 240, and now he’s right where he wanted to be. An old fart hitting golf balls 250 yards.
Last but not least, wear the new cardigan you got for Christmas, or at a minimum, go out and treat yourself to some new fashion that you’ve read about or saw on TV. There’s a whole industry out there for how new clothes can lift the spirit and your happiness factor. Admire yourself in the mirror, show it off when you go shopping or out to lunch with friends. Say goodbye to the blues baby.
No one wants to start off the New Year in a rut. Stop looking back at the mistakes and stop feeling bad about what you didn’t accomplish. With some small changes like the guy on the driving range, you can hit the ground running in the New Year.
Keep life moving forward, looking backward is only for time travelers
You are never too old, and never too late
Editorial contribution by Art Markham, PhD, University of Texas, Austin
and the Harvard Business Review Press.