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Not This Year Santa Dear, I’m Not in the Mood

By UCS Psychiatrist Dorrie Degutis

With Halloween a dream of the distant past, and Thanksgiving leftovers finished, it’s Christmas now — on every street corner. If you find you’re having trouble getting into the holiday mood, try one of the following strategies:

Avoid naysayers. If you’re just not feeling it this year, don’t hang around with other people who are cynical, unless you want to remain a Grinch. Their negative energy will only breed more discontentment.

Shed some light on the problem. Most major religions celebrate a holiday around this time of year. Pagan cultures celebrated the solstice, and the fact that the days will be getting lighter. Most of these holidays involve light.  And light is good for the mood. Light a fire or some candles, or even a bright lamp to help improve your spirits. If you have little children, there are now plenty of battery powered “candles” to put you in the mood, without jeopardizing safety.

Reach out — Do not isolate. You do not have to share your mood woes with others, but it will help to be around other people. If people notice there is something wrong and ask about it, it is okay to share or not share your strife to the degree you feel comfortable. A simple “This isn’t my favorite time of year” may suffice.

Develop your own rituals. Find a tradition you can start. Go visit the Country Store or a Candle Store, or a special restaurant that decks itself out for the holiday season. If you’re a music person, think about attending a seasonal concert to put you in the mood. If you’d prefer something non-holiday all together, gather some friends and go to lunch. If there are no people available, treat yourself to a massage or a session with a personal trainer. If this is out of reach financially, give yourself a manicure or a trip to the library to read a favorite book or magazine.

Reach out to those less fortunate. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, or take this opportunity to clear your house of magazines and donate them to a day care or nursing home. This is a chance to show your children a great lesson in humanitarianism. You are indeed giving your children a gift, by expanding their world view. Many charities allow you to donate a small amount to purchase concrete presents for others. Look at catalogues with your children from such organizations as Heifer International and Save the Children. You can donate as little as $10 towards an animal or plant that will help sustain a family. The visuals in the catalogue are very helpful for teaching the concept to pre-readers.

Decorate. If money is an issue, there are generally lots of inexpensive holiday decorations at Thrift Stores, or even freebies at local recycling and transfer centers, or on-line at Free-Cycle.

Cut yourself some slack. If your mood is sour due to current life circumstances, cut yourself some slack. If you have experienced a recent divorce, death, loss of job or other major life stress, if it understandable and expected that you will not be in the happiest of moods. Try to be gentle with yourself (and others that you know of that are in this predicament). People will often experience sadness this time of year, if it is associated with the death or loss of a loved one.  Combat these anniversary reactions and holiday blues by doing something nice for yourself. You may not have money for a weekend escape to Tahiti, but can you get a babysitter and go to the movies? How about curling up with a good book, or taking a bath? Close the door and spend ten minutes meditating or in a Yoga pose. (There’s an app for this!) The more restorative time you can garner for yourself, that happier you will be. Again, reach out to others.

Fake it till you make it. If you have children, especially little ones, you do owe it to them to try and have a pleasant holiday. This does not mean pulling out all the stops, and definitely does not mean putting yourself in debt. That will just compound the misery come the first of the year. Avoid the Martha Stewart Syndrome: you don’t have to grow your own ingredients for Christmas cookies, or make your own paper for Chanukah cards. Store bought is usually cheaper, easier, and looks or tastes just as nice.

Fake it till you make it does not mean ignoring your feelings. If you are so depressed that you can’t get out of bed, are using alcohol or other substances that are impairing your parenting, your job, or your judgment, or are experiencing any suicidal or homicidal thoughts, stop everything and get help. Call 911, your family doctor, or a crisis line, such as 1800 273 TALK or 1800 SUICIDE.

Remember, it’s OK to say “NO” to party invites, church and school functions, and giving gifts to everyone you know. Take ownership of this time a year, and do what works for you. It will soon be 2013 before you know it.




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