15 Tips to Avoid Holiday Depression

Tis the season for crippling depression! Ho ho ho? Holidays are rough in normal circumstances, but if this is your first holiday season as a divorcee, stress and loneliness can certainly compound. I’ve rounded up some tips to get you out of the dumps and into the metaphorical light, gallons of whiskey not even necessary.

Are you listening to too much Adele? You might actually be in a pretty good mood but you’ve had 25 on repeat since November, and thus you’ve succumbed to Adelitis. Adelitis’s symptoms include: uncontrollable crying, sassy hand motions, flawless eyeliner, and a cockney accent. Does this sound like you?Shut off the Adele. Instead, listen to this. Get up and dance to it, you know you want to.

Exercise. Endorphins are real, man. Jogging, yoga, hiking, ultra marathons, or whatever you’re into could really help bolster your mood. Plus it’s good for the rest of your body as well. And if you get started now, you can take advantage of your currently empty gym before it fills up with new year’s resolution-ers. If you want to add a release for pent up hostility (toward your ex, the Judge, or even your lawyer if you’ve hired someone other than me) consider kickboxing, boxing, karate or (my personal favorite) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Have you tried meditating? It might feel silly at first, but the benefits are huge. There are lots of different practices to choose from, but I recommend Transcendental Meditation, and not just because David Lynch is the coolest. Do you need to spend a grand to get your TM mantra? No. Can you use this internet guide instead? Yes.

Are you a responsible person who is ready to make a life-long commitment to someone who cannot divorce you and is scientifically proven to be good for your heart? Well, I’ve got just the ticket. Adopt a shelter dog or cat. Welcoming dogs into my family has been one of the best decisions of my life. They’re cute, fiercely loyal, life affirming and destroy household items in ways I never knew possible. Pull up Petfinder and don’t stop scrolling until you find your new best friend.

Take yourself on a date, or as I like to call it, a Solo-Yolo. Indulge for an afternoon. Take yourself for a fancy lunch, a movie your friends refuse to sit through, or wander around a gallery at your own pace. Do whatever it is that makes you deep sigh with joy. If you’ve got the cash and time off from work, extend the solo-yolo into a full fledged vacation.

What did you like to do after school when you were little? Piano, ballet, drawing classes? Whatever hobby brought you joy as a youngin’ can bring you fun and fulfillment again. Check out local sports leagues, peruse Course Horse, or just ask around. You’ll end up meeting new people and expressing your creativity at the same time. If you’re not feeling social – consider jigsaw puzzles. There’s something almost hypnotic about doing puzzles as an adult and when you finish there’s a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. Try it. You’ll see.

Take a walk, preferably in daylight. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is real and there are lots of ways to combat it, but my favorite is the simple act of taking a brisk walk at lunchtime. The fresh air will do you good, as will the vitamin D.

Cook yourself something nice. Little else can make you feel more competent and successful than turning a bag of groceries into a meal. Find a recipe that interests you, turn on some 60s soul and get ready to turn your mood around. If possible make extra. The leftovers are often the best part.

Skip the holiday cards. There is no feeling more liberating than saying “oh, screw it” in the stationery aisle of Target. Odds are your friends and family won’t notice yours is missing in their giants stacks of glittered firs and chubby angels. If anyone calls you out, just cover. Blame the post office, everyone hates the post office, then you can bond over hating the post office and deftly steer the conversation elsewhere.

Chill the heck out, but go big or go home. I’m talking many, many scented candles, a bubble bath so foamy your bathroom looks like Ibiza, a bottle of wine with a price tag that makes you wince, and your favorite holiday movie queued up on a tablet perched on the edge of the tub.

Leave the party. Leave and don’t look back. Peel out of the driveway so fast you burn rubber. Life is too short to be someplace you don’t want to be (unless you’re getting paid for being there).

Get into the holiday spirit, but on your own terms. Does shattering a dozen ornaments sound more fun than decorating a tree? Go for it. Do you want to bypass strolling along the holiday window displays and go straight for the hot chocolate containing no less than 750 calories? Go for it. Do you want to skip the lines at the mall and watch Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit and eat Chinese food instead? Go for it.

Give back and help yourself by helping others. Volunteering is not only important for your community, it also gives you some perspective and can be a great place for meeting like-minded new friends. The sense of accomplishment and self worth that comes with helping others is immeasurable. Check out Volunteer Match to get started.

Let your support system in. You don’t have to trudge through this alone. Share your feelings with your friends or family or whomever it is you trust. Open up to them, be vulnerable and let them support you. You’ll repay the favor when the shoe’s on the other foot.

Therapy. An old classic for a reason. Talking about your feelings and working through your issues is an important part of life. If there’s a medical professional helping you through it, as opposed to your friend Todd who’s half listening, you’ve got a really good chance of getting somewhere. There’s no shame in getting help and you’ll probably kick yourself for not going earlier.

Listen, the holidays are hard. Getting out of a funk is one thing, but if the blues turn into something more, there are so many services that can help. There is nothing to be ashamed of and there are people who can help. Keep a note of these numbers, and share them around because you never know who may need them. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) and the National Hopeline Network (1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)) are both toll-free and available 24 hours a day. Calls are free and confidential.

The sun will rise again, the ice will melt, the flowers will bloom. Just cool it on the Adele and be kind to yourself. Happy holidays!

James J. Sexton