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

Your Partner: The Narcissist

According to Greek myth, Narcissus was a handsome man who, upon catching a glimpse of himself in a pool of water, became obsessed with it and promptly drowned. The moral of that story–“Get over yourself”–is sure to be completely lost on narcissists, named after Narcissus for their intense and all-encompassing self-obsession; I’m sure you know one or two.

Beyond common usage, narcissism can refer to the very real, very specific Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or NPD). This is a mental disorder characterized by an overinflated sense of self-importance paired with a fragile ego. This is the person who criticizes you, but flies off the handle when you even gently suggest they have an area in which to improve. This is the person who needs constant validation and admiration. This is the person who lies to get what they want, including to gain other people’s attention and positive opinion. Sound like your partner?

Spotting a Narcissist
These are warning signs that you’re dealing with your garden-variety narcissist:

  • He has an exaggerated sense of importance and entitlement.
  • She’s abusive or patronizing to waiters, and blames it on having low blood sugar because she’s so hungry.
  • He oversells his achievements in order to impress.
  • She has unrealistic ideas about her own intelligence and/or beauty.
  • He wants to be famous.
  • He has bouts of depression, caused by feeling underappreciated or rejected by people who should respect him more.
  • Swimsuit photos or gym photos on Instagram.
  • An inordinate amount of selfies.
  • She routinely selects friends who are less attractive than she is, so she can take a starring role in those relationships.
  • She sees herself as an exception to basic rules of society, like not cutting people off in traffic, or not paying for anything.
  • He fakes cancer.
  • She fakes a pregnancy.
  • He takes advantage of other people with no remorse..
  • He can’t remember what’s happening with you. Your life events are not even on his radar.
  • Envy and gossip are a big part of her general conversation.
  • He buys you gifts on clearance and pretends he paid full price.
  • She tells you how much she spends on gifts for you and other people.
  • She gives you detailed accounts of her dreams, never clocking the look of polite boredom on your face.
  • He creates dramatic moments of which he is the centerpiece, victim or hero.
  • He has trouble enjoying and engaging in the happiness of others, for example at a wedding or when someone gets a promotion.
  • Every conversation somehow turns into a conversation about him or her: his goals, her needs, his strengths, her complaints. They struggle not to talk about themselves.
  • You find yourself rolling your eyes a lot.

Does any of this sound familiar? If this list rings a bell with you,


Why it’s horrendous to be married to this person:
Narcissistic tendencies affect a broad range of personal and interpersonal situations, including and perhaps particularly marriage. Generally people with NPD don’t seek treatment, and believe their problems–even if they continually run into the same problems over and over–are due to other people’s failings, including yours. This makes narcissists prone to cheating, conducting online affairs, and being abusive partners.

The bottom line is that narcissists don’t put the needs of others ahead of their own, making them ineffective at everything from sex to parenting. If what you’re saying can’t be reframed to be about them, they aren’t listening. They likely have unreasonable expectations of you, and they probably believe they deserve something amazing from a life partnership despite the fact that their main contribution to that partnership is bitching.

On the whole, you can expect your life to go thusly: Your narcissist will exhaust you in a cycle of emotional seduction and psychological abuse over many years, repeating the pattern until you’re so self-doubting that you can’t even consider leaving them. “I am the best you can expect to ever get,” is the relationship mode of the narcissist. “Help me, love me, admire me, need me, respect me, desire me, thank me”—these are the endless demands, voiced or unvoiced, of a narcissistic partner. Unless you’re Kimye, you don’t deserve to spend the rest of your days feeding that monster. I want to help you get the hell out, while maintaining your assets and what’s left of your dignity.

The truth is, I enjoy taking narcissists down. I’m like a superhero of sorts, with the superpower of being completely unaffected by your partner’s emotional manipulation because I have seen it all before, and I am going to help you win your divorce.


James J. Sexton


We're All Dying Anyway (or Happy World Health Day)!

It’s come to my attention that it’s World Health Day, so I thought it an appropriate time to deliver some uplifting pointers on what your bad marriage is doing to your health. Surprisingly, it turns out that regular fighting, deep-seated resentment and constant criticism are not good for your mind or body. Who knew?

I’ll give fair warning that these stats and what I say about them might make you uncomfortable. However, in my role as your friendly neighborhood divorce attorney, I feel it’s my duty to bring some harsh home truths.

Health Fact #1: Your crappy marriage is damaging your actual heart. In an ironic twist of fate, your marriage (since you spend so much of it stressed out and/or angry at yourself, your partner and probably the world) is literally increasing your risk of heart disease. If you don’t believe me, ask these doctors.

Health Fact #2: Every time you fight, your immune system goes on vacation. These guys found that for a full 24 hours after your biweekly spousal brawl, not only do your neighbors hate you but so does your body. As punishment, it stops fighting off diseases normally. That’s not allergies, folks, that’s your crappy marriage.

Health Fact #3: A bad marriage means oozing wounds. Wondering why you still have that giant zombie cold sore after two weeks of plastering on the Abreva? Thank your herpes and your horrible marriage. This study found that bodily wounds of couples who frequently argue take longer to heal, and also, your herpes is going show itself more often.

Health Fact #4: Women have it worse. This study found that for women, especially women “of a certain age”, the ill effects of a bad marriage on the heart are intensified, having an equivalent effect to being a smoker or being physically inactive. So in addition to his farting and mansplaining, you now also have to deal with the fact that he’s healthier than you. The bastard.

Health Fact #5: You’re no fun anymore. This study found that people in conflict-ridden marriages are more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms and be diagnosed with depression.

Health Fact #6: A bad marriage makes you fat. By far the most horrifying health effect of all, high marital stress is linked to higher levels of cortisol (thus greater likelihood of being overweight), and this study finds a positive correlation between high stress and a lesser ability to metabolize fats. Relatedly, you’re more likely to become diabetic. And don’t bother trying to diet: this study found that people in bad marriages are less likely to stay on health and fitness plans, so it’ll get you either way.

Fortunately there’s a silver lining to this cloud, which is that none of it really matters. 100% of science agrees that no matter what you do, you’re going to die anyway.

Happy World Health Day, everyone!


James J. Sexton