“What stresses you most about the holidays?” I asked Henri, sorting through the box of tree lights, trying to figure out a new topic for my next blog post.
“I get melancholy at Christmastime because I reflect on my year. If things went well I feel good but if they haven’t I just get so depressed about what I haven’t accomplished.”
“Whoa. I thought you would say something about the price of Christmas presents or something along financial lines.” He shrugged his shoulders and went back to hanging ornaments on the tree.
The holiday blues are pretty common, perhaps because there is such an overwhelming concept of the “ideal” – a white Christmas with friends and family, glorious gifts and fabulous feasting. The reality might be your brother’s deployed in Iraq, the kids want the latest gadget that you just can’t afford, your outfit from last Christmas is too tight and you miss your mom who just died 8 weeks ago.
Well, you can’t change your circumstances but you can decide how to respond to them. So here are some things to do to combat the holiday blues:
- Call a friend. Sometimes it’s good hearing from someone who knows you and still likes you anyway.
- Go outside and take a walk. Sunshine improves mood and the walk can clear your mind and increase circulation.
- Grieve. If you lost someone, then take some time to cry and release some of that pent up pain. That first Christmas after my father died my mom didn’t want a Christmas tree up or any gifts. So we just were together as a family and shared funny stories about my dad. We also had a stiff drink on Christmas Eve; it’s probably not recommended but we did.
- Help someone. No matter how bad your day was I guarantee someone has it worse. Help them. Get absorbed in their needs and forget your own. Visit a nursing home. Give toys to an orphanage. Give some office clothes to a battered woman’s shelter.
- It’s the thought that counts. One of the best memories I have is the Christmas we celebrated with Henri’s family as the Great Recession fell upon us. No one knew if they would have a job or not so we all decided to do a $5 white elephant gift exchange. We pulled names out of a hat on Thanksgiving and had to come up with the worst gift possible for that person. It was hysterical and a lot more fun than getting a gift card.
- Go to church. Listen to the quiet of a sacred place and remember what the real celebration is about in the first place.
- Boost your mood with good food. Eat salmon; the Omega 3‘s DHA will overhaul your mood, improve your memory and enhance brain function. Drink water. Order a salad instead of a burger.
- Laugh. Go to a comedy club. Watch a ridiculously funny movie and get lost in the actors’ antics.
- Invite some friends over for dinner. You might be far away from home but you can create an extended family. Break bread and have an interesting conversation.
- Carpe Diem, seize the day! Henri is right – you do reflect how you spent your year. So starting today, make it count. Forgive the person who wronged you. Do something you love to do that you always put off, like painting, or sailing. Try new things, they might be better than you thought they would be…(Vegan soup, anyone?)
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