First published in Southwoods December 1989
The Christmas season is here but instead of the warmth you’ve come to expect at this special time of the year, the holiday spirit is eluding you and somehow you feel left out.
It’s a loneliness all too common at this season, psychologists say, and it occurs whether you’re forced to spend the holidays alone or even when you’re isolated from the rest of the world, then you may be suffering from what is know as the Christmas blues.
Still, there are ways to cope.
DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH. We tend to demand a lot of the holiday season – a sense of togetherness, good cheer, sharing and a host of other good feelings we expect at no other time of year. This psychologist say, may be a carryover from childhood when we are given presents, love, warmth and all our needs were taken care of. Now, as adults, we must realize we can no longer experience all these same feelings. Our Christmases may be better, or they may not be as memorable; they just won’t be the same.
CHANGE YOUR HOLIDAYS FOR THE BETTER. Take a good look at how you’ve spent past Christmas seasons and decide how you can improve your holidays this year. Perhaps a talk with your spouse, children or others you’ll be spending time with may help you come up with new ideas. You may decide that sharing the decorating and shopping with your spouse could bring you closer together, or organizing more activities for the whole family would bring you greater enjoyment. Even cutting back on those large family gatherings where you’re forced to mingle with blood relatives with whom you have little in common might be the solution.
ESTABLISH YOUR OWN HOLIDAY TRADITIONS. Whether you are single and living alone, a single parent raising children or part of a more traditional household, you can still recreate some of the sense of warmth you felt as a child. Decorate your home in holiday glitter and invite people in or, if this is beyond your means, find ways to create simple pleasures throughout the holiday season. Perhaps joining with other singles for Christmas dinner or just inviting a neighbor in for tea and cookies after a hectic last-minute shopping spree would lift your spirits. You can also attend religious services, Christmas pageants, tree lighting ceremonies, or any of the many other special events held at this time.
VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME AND EFFORTS. Nursing homes, hospitals and orphanages often have many special activities at this time of year and would probably welcome an extra hand. Call ahead and find out exactly how you can be of service. Or, bake a special treat and visit a shut-in in your neighborhood. Helping others will help you forget your loneliness.
CALL FARAWAY FRIENDS OR RELATIVES. Long-distance calls may seem a bit extravagant but, after all, it is Christmas. Just hearing an old friend’s voice can make you feel close again. If you simply can’t afford the cost, then send your own special greetings in a letter. Both are great ways to let faraway loved ones know you’re thinking of them.
DON’T LET GOOD CHEER TURN TO GLOOM. Remember, alcohol is a depressant so, after that first lift, comes the drop-which is exactly what you don’t need if you already have the blues. Instead of a cocktail, reach for fruit juice, club soda, mineral water or unspiked eggnog. You’ll feel better in the morning, too.
SHARE THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON WITH A CHILD. No one gets more excited about Christmas than children so, if you don’t have an of your own, borrow some-at least for an afternoon. Take them to a holiday movie, help them select gifts for mom and dad, make simple decorations to hang on the tree, or bake Christmas cookies. Their parents will welcome the free time and you’ll renew your own holiday spirit just be sharing this childlike anticipation of the big holiday ahead.
PAMPER YOURSELF. It really is an effective way to fight the blues. Buy that luxury item you’ve always wanted. Listen to your favorite music or have breakfast in bed. Forget the Christmas “musts” at least for the moment and do something for you. Window shop, try on extravagant clothes, whether or not you can afford them. You don’t have to buy.
FIND A PLACE TO BE ALONE. If too much togetherness tends to get you down, especially when you’re staying with out-of-town relatives or they’re staying with you, find a way to isolate yourself without being unfriendly. Perhaps a jog around the block or a walk to the corner store-anything to briefly get you from all the clammer.
BAH, HUMBUG! If you simply can’t take all that holiday merriment, then take a short excursion to some place that doesn’t remind you of Christmas. Avoid newspapers, TV and even the radio while the holiday blitz is on. Pretend it’s May and buy yourself a bathing suit, golf clubs, tennis racket-anything to get your mind off the season.
All these suggestions may not apply to your particular situation but they could lead to other ideas for making your holidays merrier. Be creative and change your holiday activities for the better. You, too, can beat those Christmas Blues!