What does a writer write about at Christmastime?
What if said writer isn’t necessarily feeling altogether “Christmasy,” if that is a word.
The truth is feeling down during the holiday season is as common as the season itself.
I grabbed something from the Mayo Clinic’s website that puts this into a bit of perspective.
“The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays often present a dizzying array of demands — cooking meals, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few. And if coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is spreading in your community, you may be feeling additional stress, or you may be worrying about your and your loved ones’ health. You may also feel stressed, sad or anxious because your holiday plans may look different during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Depression during the holidays was a thing long before the pandemic, although COVID-19 did seem to make it worse.
For many of us, depression and other mental health issues are part of the story every day. The holidays just writes the mental illness story in bold italics.
The Mayo Clinic offers a few tips that should not only work during the holiday season, but in everyday life
When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones for other reasons, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events or communities. Many may have websites, online support groups, social media sites or virtual events. They can offer support and companionship. If you’re feeling stress during the holidays, it also may help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Try reaching out with a text, a call or a video chat. Volunteering your time or doing something to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. For example, consider dropping off a meal and dessert at a friend’s home during the holidays.
3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children or other relatives can’t come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate.
4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
5. Stick to a budget. Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives:
• Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
• Give homemade gifts.
• Start a family gift exchange.
6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends and other activities. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for meal prep and cleanup.
7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
• Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
• Eat healthy meals.
• Get plenty of sleep.
• Include regular physical activity in your daily routine.
• Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.
• Avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
• Be aware of how the information culture can produce undue stress, and adjust the time you spend reading news and social media as you see fit.
9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Find an activity you enjoy. Take a break by yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.Some options may include:
• Taking a walk at night and stargazing
• Listening to soothing music
• Reading a book
10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
I have things in my own life that help ease those not-so-good days. My wife, my boy Prince Albert and those that surround me now on a daily basis all have a role in keeping me on an even keel.
My toast to you is not only for a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, but here is to enjoying every waking minute possible