The period between Christmas and New Year can feel a little bit like being in an episode of Black Mirror, albeit with more gravy.
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.
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 2019.’ 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.)
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.
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
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 to 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”.
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 hot chocolate with rum in it.
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.
Edit your resolutions
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 in Italy? 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.