Wednesday, November 19, 2008
My extended family is tiny compared to most, and we habitually don't play well together. We live hundreds of miles from one another, and are infrequently inclined to get on airplanes for what could be an unpleasant, if not altogether intolerable (and expensive) holiday excursion. Because of this and myriad other reasons, the holidays aren't particularly my favorite time of year.
Until late November every year, I am blissfully unattached, quite capable of going where I want, when I want and with whom I want. And then people start talking about Thanksgiving reunions and Christmas trees and the endless round of festive frivolities where being single just never seems to comfortably fit in. Somehow, all my bliss seems to drain out of my toes by the time Jan. 1 rolls around. Everyone wants someone to kiss at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, right?
Lots of folks get depressed around the holidays. For many, it's a sad time remembering family and friends who are no longer with us. For others, it could be overblown expectations that never come to fruition, or disappointment in not being the perfect host or hostess.
Ultimately, though, all our collective holiday suffering has to do with being unable to accept reality, whether that's being stuck remembering the way things once were, or putting too much emphasis on how things "ought" to be. Maybe Thanksgiving dinner never seems to measure up to grandma's, or the gifts for the kids this year are slim because you have less disposable income. Either way, bringing yourself back to the present moment can help lighten things up.
Here are a few ways to get out of your funk and back into your life.
Do something for someone else. There's nothing like doing good things for others to make a gray sky blue. And whether it's purposefullike cleaning out your closets and donating to N.U.T.S.or a random act of kindness, seeing a smile that you helped create will give you warm fuzzies all over.
Count your blessings. It might sound trite, but when everything looks gray, giving thanks for a bright spot or two will start to put things back into perspective. Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have a job? Do you have something to eat? If you do, you're better off than a lot of folks. Be grateful. And even if you don't, I'll bet there are still things you're grateful for, even if it's a meal from Stewpot and a warm bed tonight.
Make your own family. There's no reason to stay home curled in a fetal position. I have frequently received invitations from a well-meaning friend to join their Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations, and even when I've been skeptical or hesitant to accept, it's always turned out to be fun. So don't be shy about letting those around you know that you're on your own and looking for things to do.
Be sad when you're sad and glad when you're glad. It's perfectly OK to shed tears remembering Pawpaw or be exhausted after spending hours in the kitchen catering to everyone else's needs. It's also great to have a belly laugh or two over someone's silly story. The key is to let yourself feel what you're feeling right now instead of stuffing it down.
Are you S.A.D? Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs when people can't get enough sunshine during winter months. If you find yourself getting depressed every winter like clockwork regardless of other circumstances, talk to your doctor about effective non-drug light therapy.
Get it out (option A). Sit down in a quiet spot where you won't be interrupted with a piece of paper and a pencil. Set a time limit of 30 minutes and just start writing. There's something about the connection of your brain to your hand that promotes introspection and honesty. Even if you start with "I have no idea how to do this," you'll find you have plenty to say once you actually start "saying" it. Rip it to shreds or burn it (offering gratitude, of course) when you're done. Oh, and if you're not done in 30 minutes, give yourself another half hour. Repeat as necessary.
Get it out (option B). Write a letter to someone who has "done you wrong," or with whom you have a missed opportunity. It could be your second grade teacher who told you you'd never amount to anything, or that pretty girl who you didn't ask out. Don't write with the intention of actually mailing the letter, just tell that person everything you wanted to say and never have. After you've said absolutely everything, write down what you've learned from the experience and see if you can offer that person sincere gratitude.
Put it in motion. Nothing gets those good-mood brain chemicals flowing like a little sweat. Vacuum your house, play catch with your dog, walk a few miles or work out in a high-energy aerobics class to banish your bad mood fast. More sweat equals more "happy."
Should I Get Help?
Temporary sadness surrounding a particular event is common, but if you just can't shake the blues and they start to affect your life, you might want to seek professional help. Having five or more of the following symptoms in the same two-week period could indicate a more serious problem.
• Feelings of sadness or emptiness; crying for no reason.
• Diminished pleasure with most or all day-to-day activities.
• Significant weight gain or loss when attempting to lose or gain weight, respectively.
• Insomnia or needing more than eight to nine hours of sleep.
• Uncontrollable anxiety, restlessness or sluggishness.
• Constant fatigue or loss of energy.
• Feelings of worthlessness or feeling guilty over things you can't control.
• Inability to think clearly or make decisions; lack of concentration.
• Thoughts of death or suicide.
If you have symptoms like these that last two weeks or longer, please consult your doctor.
Ronni - great job. (from one of your chosen family)