Depending on how your year-end or new-year holidays went, you may be feeling a bit …

Pick one:

  • Sad,
  • Mad,
  • Broke,
  • Depressed,
  • Overwhelmed,
  • Whew! determined not to have another holiday season like this one, or
  • Dreading the challenges that 2018 may bring.

Whatever you’re feeling, here are some tips to help get you back on track, health restored (or a plan to get there) and looking forward to the opportunities that a new year brings.

If you picked “sad” or “mad” above, here’s the surprisingly simple secret of happiness: volunteer to help someone else. The Harvard Study of Adult Development, which tracked the lives of a group of teenagers through their old age, found that those who mentored the next generation were happier and better adjusted. This was especially true for those who had difficult childhoods (poverty, broken families, physical trauma, abuse). The study learned that the kind of maturity needed to guide young people at home, work or in the community reduced some of the sting of growing up disadvantaged.

Another way to help someone … and yourself, is to make a new friend or renew a friendship that’s been neglected. It can be a family member, work colleague or neighbor. It could be your spouse or a child that needs your attention. Close relationships are essential for good health because of the mental health benefits they provide. People with at least one close relationship are less depressed and have better general physical health.

The holidays are probably the easiest time to overspend. Whether it’s guilt, generosity, meeting expectations, or coping with unplanned expenses (why does something always break during the holidays?), you’re in good company. At least 77 percent of Americans say they overspend during the holidays, according to Coinstar’s 2017 Holiday Survey. And 65 percent of them say they had a holiday budget. It’s a tough time of the year to stay focused on a budget. Self-control is the magic ingredient to avoid feeling “broke” next year.

Here are some of the ways that survey respondents plan to accomplish better self-control of their 2018 holiday spending:

  • Set a 2018 holiday budget now. It will likely need adjusting before next fall but get it on paper or on your cell phone now. Try to evaluate where you overspent this year to avoid the same mistakes.
  • Once you target the maximum amount of spending you can afford, divide it among your spending categories (gifts, decorating, charity donations, entertainment, events, travel, special clothing).
  • Shop throughout the year when things are on sale. Notate purchases on your holiday budget so you don’t overspend.
  • Creative gift-giving was a popular strategy to stay on budget. Almost two-thirds of Americans say they gave some gifts that were not purchased at retail – confections and other food items made at home, hand-crafted items, services (house cleaning, childcare, spa visits) or giving to charity in lieu of a gift. “Regifting” was popular with 14 percent of the baby-boomer generation and with 23 percent of millennials.
  • To save the money for 2018 holiday spending, survey respondents plan to cash in spare change (39%), reduce entertainment spending (35%), dine out less frequently (33%), use savings (23%) or use credit cards (20%). Think about how good it would feel not to have a financial panic next January. Hold that thought – it can be a powerful motivator to help you save a little each week throughout 2018. Set up a separate Christmas savings account if you need discipline and focus to be successful at saving money.

If the holidays leave you feeling let-down or depressed, get moving! Exercise, play sports, walk with a friend, take a class, use that gym membership – anything will help. Exercise improves mood, helps you lose weight, strengthens bones and muscles, increases your energy level, improves brain health and memory, strengthens your heart, helps prevent cancer, strengthens your immune system and is a good way to get some mood-improving socialization if you exercise with others. If you make the time – a minimum of about 150 minutes each week – regular exercise provides super benefits.

Eating well and exercising most days of the week builds mental and physical resilience. We all face challenges; those with resilience can grow from challenges. Add one small improvements in your food and beverage intake every week and you should be ready to face what the new year throws at you.

If you chose any of the last three holiday responses, take your “losses” and learn from them. Face your problems, accept the reality of a bad situation, and work out a solution or way to cope. Avoiding your problems tends to cause problems in other areas of your life. The problem keeps nagging at you whether you’re actively thinking about it or not. People who tend to ignore, suppress or forget about uncomfortable facts find that their relationships suffer, making life even more difficult. By facing reality, you make it easier for others to try to help you and makes them want to help you. People who face reality have better relationships and more social support.

You hold the keys to a better 2018; Happy New Year!