Surviving the lull: a comprehensive guide to spending the limbo days between Christmas and New Year

Posted by
Daisy Buchanan
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

The period between Christmas and New Year can feel a little bit like being in an episode of Black Mirror, albeit with more gravy. Daisy Buchanan explores the best ways to spend the limbo days over the festive period.

Somewhere between 27 and 31 December, time breaks down and becomes an abstract concept. All you know about the days of the week is that they might have a ‘y’ in them. You stop identifying as a human, and start seeing yourself as a rustling, smeary mass of tiny Toblerone wrappers. You can’t tell where your paper hat ends and your real head begins. Some people call this period the Festive Perineum. More elegantly, the Norwegians know this time as ‘Romjul’. It’s a lull. A gap. Not a creature is stirring.

You may also like

The 12 new year’s resolutions we all need to make for 2022, according to Marie Curie nurses

We spend December thinking about praying for peace – our own – and frenetically rushing towards the 25th. We believe that everything will be OK just as soon as the last present is wrapped, when we tap our pin number into the supermarket machine for the last time, when we get the seventeenth and final Uber and go home after drinking weak mulled wine and eating lukewarm mince pies at the house of the girlfriend of the person we interned with for two weeks 12 years ago.

’On the 26th of December,’ we think to ourselves, ‘I shall take to my bed and slip into a voluntary, week long coma, emerging fresh and rested in the early hours of 2021.’ 

Then we wake up baffled on Boxing Day. We don’t quite know what to do with ourselves. Do we backdate our reading and sit down with the Booker shortlist, or get ahead and attempt to pre-empt next year’s winner? Do we fashion a feast from festive leftovers, and try to do something creative and Heston-esque with liquid smoke, and soggy sprouts emerging from an explosion of foam? Do we rush to a department store sale, sharpen our elbows and attempt to bag a Gucci Marmont for 95% of the RRP? Or do we spend the week in a state of exhausted panic, almost getting dressed, almost replying to emails and almost watching the new episodes of Making A Murderer before giving up and falling asleep in front of Friends. (So comforting. So known.) 

Surviving the lull: the time between Christmas and New Year is a perfect time to tackle that ever-growing reading list

Firstly, you don’t have to do anything at all between Christmas and New Year. As long as you don’t murder your family or burn your house down with faulty fairy lights, it absolutely doesn’t matter whether you eat all your parsnips and read 50 improving books, or if all of your vegetable and cultural nourishment is coming from a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. You work hard, you deserve a rest, and if you have any time for yourself before January arrives, you must use it in a way that makes you happy. 

There is no denying, though, that relaxing can be complicated. Most of us aren’t used to it. We know how to wring every drop of usefulness and impressiveness out of the weekend, but we are not practised in the art of doing nothing. However, doing nothing at all is sometimes the very best thing for our mental health

Here’s how to manage the gap – and feel genuinely relaxed in time for New Year. 

Put Instagram down

Yes, we know you know, but if you’re feeling a little bit low, worn out, vulnerable and full of sugar, scrolling through the “perfect” Christmasses of a thousand strangers will exacerbate your bad or sad mood. If you log out of the app and move it to a special folder on your phone, you will think before picking it up and looking at it when you’re not really concentrating. 

Woman on social media at Christmas
Digital detox tips: take advantage of the Christmas lull to take a break from social media

During the Christmas week, try to stay off Instagram unless you have something that you really want to share. You don’t need to see hundreds of pictures of Kardashians being tended to by their glam squad if it’s going to make you feel bad about drinking Bailey’s in a onesie. 

Buy yourself a present

The inbetween days of Christmas and New Year are a great time to treat yourself to a nice present.

Nothing says ‘treat yo’self’ like a big Sale sign – but nothing makes you question your taste, self worth and judgement like a bag full of ill-fitting clothes that don’t suit you, or anyone, but were reduced by 80%. If you find something you love that has been reduced dramatically, by all means snap it up and celebrate your bargain hunting skills. But if you’re simply longing for something shiny and new, take yourself to the shops (or this year, the internet) and buy yourself the nicest full price treat you can afford. If it’s something you want to keep, it’s a bigger bargain than anything that might turn up in a TK Maxx clearance bucket.

Go for a run. Or a “run”.

Running is a great way to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety, and promote better mental health.

Exercise can be a key part of mental health management, and if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, any activity that boosts endorphins might make you feel a bit better. Although this might be true of simply getting out of the house. If your family are getting on top of you, tell them that you’re going out for an hour, because you’re going for a run. In these health conscious times, no-one is going to question this. What you do is up to you. You could have an actual run. You could find a café that serves takeaway hot chocolate with rum in it. 

Practise napping

Girl napping on sofa
Napping: ever wondered why its so tempting to nap over Christmas? This is due to increased serotonin levels due to all the delicious carbohydrates

When it comes to the post-Christmas lull, sleep is for the week. If you don’t sleep easily, you have time to fine tune your afternoon nap schedule. What time do you like to drop off? How does it affect the way that you sleep in the evening? What makes you feel rested, creative and alert? Chances are that you’re running a sleep deficit, and this is the perfect week for you to rest up and restore your body and mind. This is every bit as indulgent as eating a whole box of Lindt balls, but as a bonus, you’ll feel amazing afterwards. 

You may also like

How to nap: napping is a life skill, so make sure you do it right

Edit your resolutions

Focus on setting New Year's resolutions that are both achievable and bring you joy.

The New Year’s resolution is falling out of fashion, perhaps because we all know that they’re no fun. Who wants to spend the end of December making a plan to eat less, drink less and pay off their credit cards? 

However, you can spend the last week of the year thinking about the resolutions that will bring you more joy. Anything that makes you happier will make your life better, so this is the ultimate act of self-improvement. What would you do if you had enough time and money to do everything? Do you dream of dining in a Michelin starred restaurant? Learning Italian? Curating a database of reviews of every single film Tom Hardy has ever appeared in? There’s your resolution. It’s much more fun than eating less bread or vowing to regularly defrost the fridge. 

Images: Getty/Unsplash

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy


Share this article


Daisy Buchanan

Recommended by Daisy Buchanan


10 alternative New Year’s resolutions we actually like

Forget the "New Year, new you" concept.

Posted by
Sejal Kapadia Pocha

These beauty products are tackling anxiety, insomnia and low moods

Self-care saviours

Posted by
Anna Pollitt

In defence of Friends

“It might be cool to hate on the classic sitcom – but it was surprisingly progressive for its time.”

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray

Quiz: what kind of cheese are you most like?

Kill some time in coronavirus lockdown with the cheesiest personality test ever devised.

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray

"Being single at Christmas is a great excuse to do what you want"

The up side of flying solo over the festive period

Posted by
Stylist Team