This time of the year makes me sick to my guts.
All this good cheer is a pain in the nuts.
When it’s your career that’s down in the dumps
Tidings of comfort and joy really suck.
—Excerpt from “This Holiday Season” by Porn Orchard
Every year, just after the Halloween decorations are tucked away, a certain segment of the population devolves into a very, very bad mood. This sour temper can range from a general curmudgeonly crankiness to full-fledged doom and despair.
The source of this irritation? That omnipresent irritatingly jolly old man in the red suit who mocks your pain with every grating ho-ho-ho from his big fat mouth.
OK, so maybe it’s not that melodramatic. But the fact is, not everyone enjoys the holiday season. In fact, some spend the other 10 months of the year dreading it.
For many, the season may entail slight irritations like annoying relatives and a deflated bank account, yet it’s still heralded as a joyous time to reconnect with friends and family and stoke the fires of goodwill (which some largely ignore the other 10 months of the year).
But for others — as difficult as it may be for die-hard holidayphiles to realize — this is the season of serious suckage. To scoff at this holiest of holidays is a major social faux pas; admitting you hate Christmas is akin to confessing you kick puppies for sport and pleasure.
And unfortunately, “just ignoring” the holidays doesn’t quite work, thanks to our friends in the advertising world. Pop in the drug store, swing by the supermarket, flip on the TV, scan the radio, even walk down the street and you’ll be met with an onslaught of holiday propaganda. It’s damn near inescapable.
So, you Scrooges and Bah Humbugs out there (and I’m one of you) are just going to have to deal. Here are a few tips for coping:
Relax! Drop the carving knife!
Stress is often at its highest during this time, and both holidayphobes and holidayphiles can suffer a nervous breakdown from all the pressure. Those who actually dig this time of year often completely overreach themselves with craft projects, elaborate parties and shopping; they can end up a sobbing, twitching mess curled in a ball under the Christmas tree.
“Keep expectations realistic and manageable,” says Heather Flynn, a clinical psychiatrist and depression researcher for the University of Michigan. “People who are perfectionists want to do it all.”
Those who have a tendency to wig out might want to explore yoga. In addition to strengthening the body, yoga requires deep breathing and quiet time, and is deeply relaxing. Even 10 minutes a day can help dramatically — and if you master some of the more difficult positions, it makes for a neat holiday party trick.
The prestigious Bikram’s Yoga College has locations in Ann Arbor, Plymouth, Farmington Hills and Grosse Pointe; visit www.bikramyogadetroit.com for more info, or check your yellow pages for Bikram and other purveyors of this ancient practice.
Break the mold
No, not the Jell-O mold. Many people are uncomfortable with the holidays because their life doesn’t fit the prototypical Norman Rockwell Christmas scenario. Don’t feel inadequate because your family situation doesn’t look like a holiday episode of a sitcom — only a family of Barbie, Ken and Skipper could exude that much plastic perfection.
“It’s important to think about not falling victim to what everybody else and the media portray the holidays should be,” says Flynn. “Rather, think about what’s important to that individual person, whether it be helping others, taking a break or vacation, or trying something new. Try to connect with the people you do have in your life.”
Flynn adds that people with the holiday blues can often receive a huge surge of positive vibes by volunteering their time with a charity.
Search for a charity in your area at www.charity-charities.org, or inquire at your local church or community organization.
Holidays aside, the end of the year is a difficult time for anyone who suffers from the aptly named SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Decreased daylight and gray, dreary skies can make one feel sluggish, unmotivated, and generally bummed-out.
Light therapy is a popular cure for this phenomenon; check out some of the natural light products at www.fullspectrumsolutions.com.
Or go the free route and take advantage of cold sunny days: enjoy a brisk walk, shovel some snow, or embark on a sledding adventure. Soak up as much natural light as possible.
For a gorgeous atmosphere, warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine, pay a visit to the Butterfly House at the Detroit Zoo. This encapsulated greenhouse is home to hundreds of species of butterflies from around the world — they float around freely and may even perch on your arm if you’re lucky. For Butterfly House hours, visit www.detroitzoo.org or call 248-398-0903.
Lay off the hooch ...
’Tis the season for libations, and Grandma’s eggnog sure has a lot of kick to it. Holidays are a time for tipping back the bottle, whether it’s overindulgence at the office Christmas party or simply drowning one’s sorrows over all the aforementioned misery.
“Alcohol intake can significantly contribute to depression,” says Flynn. “It’s very important to moderate your intake.”
… and get thee to a gym
While you’re on this newfound health kick, get your fat ass to the gym.
Any sort of physical exertion will combat SAD, boost natural endorphins and raise serotonin levels — that natural chemical in your head that makes you happy. Plus, you have the added benefit of burning off that holiday flab — and nothing’s more depressing that trying on a bikini in the post-holiday season.
Put your foot down
Friends, family and co-workers can be downright pushy when it comes to holiday events. If you don’t want to participate in the office Christmas gift pool, or attend yet another party, or feel pressured into doing something that makes you uncomfortable — don’t.
“Be assertive,” says Flynn. “Educate other people about what your own beliefs are around the holiday. People often feel better if they can be more assertive or educate others.”
In other words, don’t let those jolly mofos push you around!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
“Holidays are a time when people are reminded of losses in their lives,” says Flynn. “If someone needs to seek help from a medical professional, they would not be alone in doing that. This is a time of year when a lot of people reach out to the mental health system.”
Being depressed is nothing to be ashamed of, and neither is hating the everlasting hell out of the holidays. But if your sadness is dramatically affecting your life for the worse, it may be time to consider professional help. Consult your physician. If you don’t have insurance, there are free counseling clinics available, but they vary in availability from city to city. Call your city’s health department to find out which services are offered.
Above all, don’t lose hope — it’s just two months out of the year, after all, and it is possible to make the best of the season even if you’re the grumpiest of Scrooges.
And, hey, there’s always Valentine’s Day, the second-most-depressing holiday of the year, to look forward to!
Check out more Holiday Survival Guide stories:
Surviving the gatherings of the clan.
Season for sharing
How to help those in need survive the holidays.
Giving on the cheap
Or should we say "inexpensive?"
Pass (on) the stuffing
Ways to keep the holidays from becoming too weighty.
Presents from tinsel town
What would the season be without its flicks?
Avoiding Xmas bling bling
You needn't sell out to the corporate juggernaut.
A gift guide to underground recordings.
Oh, holy naught
This year's Xmas sounds like the hour 13 lineup on the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
A dilettante's guide to holiday imbibing.
Silent night, sober night
How to stay on the wagon.