Bouncing Back from Holiday Fatigue and Hangover


Writer: Rafael Reyes
Researcher: Rafael Reyes
Editor: K Ballesteros 
Graphics: Jacklyn Moral, Krystle Mae Labio

The saddest part of any celebration is when it’s time to wrap things up and leave. The holiday season has passed and we now greet 2023 with hope and excitement for what the new year will bring. If you feel like you don’t want to go back to school or work yet after the festivities, you’re not alone. Holiday fatigue and hangovers are real and are inevitable after weeks of joyful vibes and delicious dinners. While these sensations are certain to arrive after the holidays, there are ways to come back down to Earth and to our regular lives.

Holiday Fatigue and Hangover

While there’s no strict definition for holiday fatigue and hangover, we can understand how holiday fatigue and hangover feel.

Holiday fatigue implies being overwhelmed because of the things involved in festivities [1]. The demanding nature of Christmas, from preparing the Noche Buena to socializing with so many people, can be exhausting. Whether it’s meeting the expectation that the holidays are supposed to be only merry, or hearing Mariah Carey’s hit Christmas single in the malls for the 50th time this month, December can be a demanding period. 

Hangovers are most often associated with the aftermath of drinking alcoholic beverages. Holiday hangovers occur in the lull that people experience after Christmas and New Years [2]. It often manifests in having difficulties trying to get back into old routines [3] and feeling overwhelmed and fatigued by a busy schedule [4].

The Value of Moderation and Rest

Fatigue and hangovers during the holidays are normal because, even though we’re having all sorts of fun, our body and mind can only take in so much. Adam Grant and Barry Schwartz investigated Aristotle’s idea of moderation between what is ‘too little’ and ‘too much’ of one thing [5]. They discovered an inverted-U-shaped graph where peak performance is achieved at moderate levels of a given variable [5]. For example, too little stress makes us too bored to perform optimally, while too much stress makes us panic and fail to act [6].

The holidays are not just a time of celebration, but also of rest from almost a year of grinding. Taking breaks is important to relieve stress, recover our energy, and promote our well-being [7]. If we consider the inverted-U theory, too much rest can make us lazy, and too little rest can push us closer towards burnout.

The philosopher Marcus Aurelius asserts that as human beings, we’re not born into this world to stay in bed and “feel nice”, but to experience life and its wonders [8]. It’s important to rest because it prepares us for the next day, but it’s also clear that we’re not meant to rest all the time. At some point, we’re inclined to act in the world as part of our nature as people—to work, to study, to learn, to help other people, or whatever it is that gives us growth and satisfaction.

Combatting Holiday Fatigue and Hangover

Fortunately, there are ways to start dealing with holiday fatigue that you could use not just today, but also in other similar occasions [1, 9]:

Plan for the future

Remember how before the holidays, you were stoked to make it through November and finally get to the well-deserved Christmas break? You can start planning for another getaway during the summer season so that there’s another break to look forward to. Having a designated reward helps with motivation and getting things done.

Make a to-do list

During the holidays, it can be easy to forget about the responsibilities we’re leaving behind. It’s important to relax and not think about work, but we shouldn’t completely forget what needs to be worked on. You can put away all of the open tasks with a to-do list you can leave at a familiar place when it’s time to work. Don’t forget to add notes related to the task itself so that your future self will also pick up the mental context needed for said task.

Pace yourself

Everyone will be coming out of the holidays with mountains of responsibilities waiting for them. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and see that there is a lot to attend to. Choose one small thing in that list of to-dos that you need to work on, like organizing your work desk. Being able to slowly chip away at the things that need to be done builds momentum, and you can use that momentum from a finished task to jump into another one. .

When bouncing back from the holidays, the most important thing is to be able to start slow with your old routine. Getting accustomed to routines and relearning  habits all begins with a single step. Give yourself time to recover, and remember that the holidays will come again, just like last year.


Session Questions  

  • Pre-Session Q: How was the start of your 2023?
  • Q1: Why do we feel more tired and want “more time” after the holidays are over?
  • Q2: How does taking breaks during the holidays help us?
  • Q3: What’s one tip you can share for those coming back to work/school/other responsibilities?
  • Post-Session Q: Write a motivational reminder for your future self to help bounce back into work/school/responsibilities.


[1] Carter, C. (2012, November 19). Preventing holiday fatigue. Greater Good.

[2] Evans, L. (2015, January 2). 6 tricks to fight post-holiday fatigue. Entrepreneur.

[3] Power, M. (2013, September 10). Holiday Hangover strikes as summer holidays come to an end. Mail Online.

[4] Brooke, M. (2022, January 6). What is a holiday health hangover and how to avoid it. Nutrisense.

[5] Grant, A., & Schwartz, B. (2011). Too Much of a Good Thing: The Challenge and Opportunity of the Inverted U. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 61–76.

[6] British Broadcasting Corporation. (n.d.). Arousal—The inverted “u” theory. BBC Bitesize.

[7] Finkbeiner, K. M., Russell, P. N., & Helton, W. S. (2016). Rest improves performance, nature improves happiness: Assessment of break periods on the abbreviated vigilance task. Consciousness and Cognition, 42, 277–285.

[8] Popova, M. (2017, January 3). Marcus Aurelius on how to motivate yourself to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. The Marginalian.

[9] Carter, S. B. (2011, November 5). ’Tis the season (Already!): 5 simple ways to avoid holiday fatigue. Psychology Today.


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