No! It is NOT the most wonderful time of the year. Partly, it's because of this lock-step expectation that everyone must act as if it is wonderful. Partly, it's because the holidays can often trigger an individual's sense of isolation, unhappiness and discord.
Many believe the holidays are the best time of year. (Especially if your lucky school got selected to the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.) But for many others, the traditions of socially mandated joyousness and difficult family interactions will erode an already fragile sense of well-being.
Here are five ways for you to stay sane and wrestle th holiday season into a sleeper-hold until January 2nd.
GET SOME AIR. As the weather gets crappy, we inevitably spend more time inside, on our asses. While we sit we stagnate, and that includes mental health. Actively look for the clouds to part. Run outside when you see a sunbreak, as we affectionately call it here in the Pacific Northwest. Go, get outside when the weather turns nice, even for five minutes. Focus on walking itself. Pay attention to where you're stepping and where you’re going. While you walk, stop thinking! This takes intent. Tell yourself you’re not going to think about anything but the walk itself. This focus resets the mind and the exercise reenergizes the body so that you can drop-kick those wintertime doldrums.
WATCH A HOLIDAY MOVIE. There are plenty of great holiday movies for those of us who rather dislike the holidays. First Blood is a Christmas movie. So are Gremlins, Die Hard and Trading Places. Although, if you want your mockery kosher and circumcised then, The Hebrew Hammer is for you. BTW, if you're just not feeling it, it's okay to say no and stay home instead. When all of the pre-fab holiday traditions start grinding you down, some good, old-fashioned escapism is a welcome way to Judo flip the relentless holiday fare.
SPARE CHANGE. No, not for the 10,000 guys tinkling little bells outside every grocery store from Fairbanks on down to Fiesta Key. You might’ve changed over the last year (or years) but for the family and friends you left back home that change is often spare. As in thin, insubstantial, sparse. Don’t return to an old place with a new outlook and think it will rub-off on people. When you’ve changed and they’ve all stayed exactly the same it creates distance. Be aware that meeting people who’re stuck in 1995 will feel awkward. Bitch-slap that sensation by taking pride in your personal growth and having empathy for those who remain stuck in their grunge.
STAY AWAY FROM ROLES. Probably you should stay away from the rolls, also. By roles I mean the static expectations you have within the family hierarchy and/or your friend group. We each have our place within these social constructs and that’s great if you’re on top. But those of us at the bottom get shit on a lot. Stay away from the bait that can suck you back into the tired arguments, the dysfunctional behaviors, the emotional baggage. Be aware that people will expect you in a certain role and want you to fulfill it. Body slam disempowerment by being aware of these expectations and steering clear of the triggers.
HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY. There’s only so much one human can stand being around the always broke deadbeat father, the hyper-inquisitive aunt, the racist brother-in-law, the passive-aggressive sister, the delusional mother and her alcoholic brother. Any one of these people will want to make you stick your head in the oven. Before you go in, think of how you’re going to get out. Will you fake an illness or stage a medical emergency or lie about having another event? Think about the triggers you’re going to have to navigate under the circumstances. Anticipate what pro-active things you can do when someone does or says something hurtful or inappropriate. Don’t react. Go prepared with a strategy that throws depressing situations into a stranglehold.
Bonus tip for the medicated: The holiday season is also full of free flowing alcohol. There are fun people at fun parties. And then there are those who’ll drive you to drink. Remember, booze is a depressant. If you're on antidepressants, like I am, the increased boozing will counteract your medication. Even if you’re having a great time because you’ve avoided everybody I’ve talked about above, over the next day or two you’ll find the meds aren’t quite working like they used to. In this case, it isn’t the holidays making you depressed. It’s you. Lay off the booze and you can bounce back.