The Holiday Hangover Effect

Raise your hand if you absolutely love celebrating holidays with your family and friends!! 🙋

Raise your hand if you wished that the time that you had to enjoy yourself was longer, deeper, richer!! 🙋

Raise your hand if immediately after the holiday, you think about the foods you will avoid, the work you will do, and the extra steps to get “back on track” after indulging yourself for the holiday. 🙋

Raise your hand if you often wake up this morning after a holiday filled with joy and gratitude for the opportunity to disrupt your everyday life and celebrate the with people you love? 😶

This post is a bit more personal, and I don’t intend to project my experience onto others. However, I think that this is a conversation I’ve had after every major holiday, particularly in the summer time, since my career started.

We view holidays as opportunities to escape, to break free from the confines of our daily lives.

We hatch big plans, drive absurd distances for what amounts to 36 hours of vacation, eat all of the food, buy all of the alcohol, and we blow up Instagram and Snapchat like they’re going out of style.

And why do we do this? Because it’s awesome. The adrenaline pump that begins the moment everyone piles into the car that extends to the last song played for the party before everyone finally succumbs to a day’s worth of sun, burgers, and beer.

These days engender incredible memories, new friendships, and lifelong traditions. Think about that.

We attach traditions to holidays so frequently because we want to capture and recreate the incredible joy that we feel from those experiences.

But what happens when you wake up the next morning?

Rue. Regret. Remorse. A new and more terrifying version of the Sunday Scaries arrives. The responsibilities of work and life that you pushed from your brain have arrived front and center. And much like a pet that has been ignored, this anxiety scratches relentlessly at the back of your forehead to get your attention. It feels neglected. You haven’t obsessed over your e-mail or your deliverables or your clients for all of 36 hours.

So we start to plan.

I’m going to leave by 9, which puts me at home by 1. I’ll grab a quick bite, hit the gym, clean up my inbox, vacuum my apartment, grab dinner with a friend in the neighborhood, and unwind with a TV show before I crash. I have six meetings tomorrow plus two calls — I’ll read these reports on the commute tomorrow and catch up on the rest of the action from the weekend from my colleague etc..

Sound familiar?

We start to feel guilty about how much we ate and drank over the course of the weekend, and we start to make a plan for how we will atone over the coming week and give up some of our favorite things like cookies or ice cream to make up for the weekend swing.

All of the care-free, abundant joy that we experience hours before has all evaporated because it is too much of a departure from our normal lives. We don’t know how to reconcile the two realities. We genuinely struggle to understand how we can go from chugging rose out of a bottle while riding an inflatable unicorn to an important client meeting within 36 hours. But here’s the thing:

A huge part of what makes you awesome is your capacity to work and play with equal vigor.

Moreover, we have an inherent need to play to create space for recovery and reflection on the work that we do, otherwise we simply run ourselves relentlessly into the ground.

We already give so much of our time and energy to work, and not just in the hours we physically spend there. We shape ourselves to fit the image of what we should be like at work. We’re professional. We’re organized. We’re detail-oriented. We’re diligent.

I count myself as blessed to have so many wonderful friends who do so much extraordinary work. Many of them have worked with more large, Fortune 100 companies already than I will in my lifetime. They have counseled CEOs and executives on million dollar strategies to steer an organization of thousands of people in new directions. But this is not why I love them.

I love them because they can be discussing these amazing challenges they face at work in one moment, and be laughing at a fart joke the next. And they’re the exact same person.

We feel it necessary to divorce these parts of our life and personality from one another, but they desperately need each other.

I mean this from two perspectives. First, we need to be able to have room to be serious and goofy in the same body. To dial these qualities up and down as needed, and also to be sure that we have access to both of them on a regular basis.

Second, it hurts us to view these periods of celebration and connectivity as an alternative universe to the one that we occupy most of the time. These moments and experiences are every bit a part of your life just as your professional commitments.

When we relegate these spirited times to some “other” category, we form a storyline in which we have to justify our opportunities to have fun and celebrate with friends.

Having an amazing time with friends and family is not something that you need to earn, or justify to other people.

Rather than regret our celebrations, or seeing them as an aberration from the norm, let’s embrace them as the glorious, uplifting part of our reality that they really are. Let’s reflect on the new friends that we made rather than the extra calories we consumed.

This is as much a message for me as it is for anyone else. I know that I have a great deal of work to do in this area, too.

I’ve already laid plans for my next holiday. And beyond just the long road trip to Wisconsin, and the inevitable stop at Culver’s, and the egregious number of Bud Lights that will be consumed, I’m making extra plans.

I’m planning on reflecting on how much joy and fun was captured in just a few days by the water. I’m planning on looking for opportunities to be just as silly and ridiculous without having to drive to the North Woods of Wisconsin. I’m planning to bring a little bit more Holiday to my life rather than keeping it relegated to a few precious weekends a year. Join me, won’t you??

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