How to Fight Post-Holidays Blues
Confessions of a holiday-olic
Are you one of those people who love everything about the Christmas holidays?
I am. My favorite day of the year is the day before Thanksgiving because it is all ahead of me: the decorations, the music, the food, the shopping, the gift wrapping, the cards in the mail - all of it.
Unfortunately, my least favorite day of the year is the day after Christmas. It's over. The magic is gone. Even the promise of New Year I find depressing. But I know this about myself, and over the years I've established some ground rules for fighting off post-holiday depression.
Now, if I ever won the lottery (or wrote a bestselling novel!) I'd book a wonderful trip to a new, exciting place every year leaving, sailing, launching, rowing, whatever, on December 26. But until my numbers hit or the book starts selling, I'm left with only the self-help techniques I've come up with myself.
Number One: Do not, under any circumstances, succumb to the impulse to start undecorating the house before New Years Day. It only adds to the depression. And even on January 1, do not do it all at once. I put a few things away at a time, starting with the outside lights so as to not be that irritating neighbor who still has lights up at Valentine's, and ending with the tree itself. Taking down the tree is the biggest chore, and I find I feel much better when it is the last of the un-Christmas-ing tasks I finish. I'm so pleased when I'm done, I don't mind so much that it is the final nail in the coffin of the holidays for another year.
Number Two: When I'm pulling out the wreaths and nativities and candles to decorate for the season, I try to put every day items away to make room for the decorations. Then, when I'm putting Christmas back in the closet for another 11 months, I have things to return to their place so the house doesn't look so empty.
Number Three: If space is available, have an established closet, shelf, corner of the basement or whatever to store all your holiday paraphernalia in one organized place. This gives you a feeling of control - over material things at least, if not over your emotions.
Number Four: Realize what you really miss at the end of the holidays is the fellowship, the connection with friends and family, the feeling of celebration. There is no reason that has to end. Get on the phone and make some dates to fill up that empty January calendar: lunch with the girlfriends, dinner with your favorite couple, a shopping trip with your nieces to exchange all those wrong gifts. Folks are too busy? Schedule a massage, a pedicure, a hair cut, a manicure every weekend in the month. Check the movie schedule and determine to see all those Oscar contenders before the awards show in March. Visit all the museums in your town before February. Make yourself busy and before you know it the crocus will be blooming.
Number Five: Rearrange the furniture. Even if you live in a small apartment, switch around the lamps, turn the kitchen table to the other direction, replace the shower curtains. Do anything to give your surroundings a fresh look to energize you to face the new year, to return to the daily grind, to keep you off the window ledge.
Number Six: Move. Get up. Get out of the house. Walk around the block. Jump rope in the kitchen. Put on your favorite music and Boogaloo. March in place to the bands on the TV football games. If your body thinks there are places to go and things to do, you'll trick your mind into thinking so too. The best way to fight post-holiday depression, deployment depression, winter depression - depression of any kind - is to get up and move. Get those endorphins working for you.
Number Seven: Give yourself a time-consuming project. Scan that scrapbook of family pictures and create a digital book to give as Mother's Day or Birthday gifts this year. Research your family tree. Create your own library by organizing your collection of paperback books. Strip that wallpaper in the bathroom. Start writing that novel you've carried around in your head for years. Start a project you can't finish in one day. It'll give you a purpose - a goal.
Number Eight: Last and probably the best - do something for someone other than yourself. Get your mind on something or somebody else. Best cure for depression ever. Make a fruit salad for all your co-workers who have made a new year's resolution to lose weight. Volunteer to teach Sunday School at your church, to spend Saturday mornings helping out at your local hospital, food bank, women's shelter; to read to children at the neighborhood elementary school. Schedule one day a week to have lunch with a student through Big Brothers Big Sisters. (You can do that. It's a small first step for a wonderful organization.) Do something, anything that benefits someone besides you. It is the best way to pull yourself out of an emotional slump.
Then look on the bright side: winter is one third over, you don't have to have a meal with that brother-in-law you can't stand until Easter, pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training in only eight more weeks. And there will be another Christmas season next year. Every day that passes brings you closer to it.