Prepare for holiday depression in advance

Ryn Gargulinski: Freedom Newspapers

Now it’s official. Halloween candy has hardened and most of us have recovered from eating three times our body weight at Thanksgiving. That means we can gallop onward like a Santa sleigh to the very next step.

The big stretch of Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza and whatever year-end celebration may abound by cavemen in the Andes. It’s a time for hustle and bustle and cheer — and often acute depression.

I first realized the holidays made me depressed when I refused to open my stocking stuffers several years ago. It didn’t help, of course, that they were all the shape and size of Chapstick.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Chapstick, but I just wasn’t up to the façade of pretending that all was well and everything was beautiful while admitting, yes, my lips were terribly chapped.

Actually, it would not have mattered if the Chapstick were a diamond nose ring. Or a dozen Sharpies. Or a million tickets to Paris. We long for that inner fulfillment, not a drawer full of diamonds or lip balm. (Please note, this does not mean I don’t want any gifts this season.)

High expectations of the holidays are a major part of what gets people down. We don’t always get what we want, especially when we seek inner peace. Not only in the form of Chapstick versus a pea green Doc Martens but in the grand expectations of what the holiday should hold.
Should is such an ugly word.

You should be gleeful. You should not cry. You should pretend to love that stupid song about grandma getting run over by a reindeer — after all, it’s a celebration.

We are also haunted by the ghosts of the holidays past. We recall the scenes that were set by flying dishware; the trees that were knocked over by a flaming fight; the meals that were ruined because someone forgot to add water to the Stovetop stuffing.

Granted, these are random, fictional examples, but you get the point.

The best thing to do for a potential onslaught of holiday depression — besides getting a prescription from your doctor — is to prepare. Some simple tips will help beat down the rearing head of sadness.

• Remember, you are not alone. Recent studies have shown 98 percent of people wearing black skull T-shirts that say “I hate you” on Christmas Eve are equally depressed. The other 2 percent are in a rock band.

• Make sure you are surrounded by people you like. If that’s not possible, accept the people by whom you are surrounded as who they are. Just because Uncle Fred is clad in a Santa hat may not make him likable. But at least you can laugh at how stupid he looks.

• Other good surroundings include children and pets. It’s quite difficult to remain crotchety when faced with the glowing eyes of a child who sees snow or Santa for the first time. Or the second time. Or often even the third. And it’s a hard-pressed case if someone is gloomy enough not to at least smile at the antics of a pet gnawing through gift wrap to get to a giant chunk of rawhide.

• Maybe even throw an anti-depression party. No, don’t sit around and cry into the eggnog. But laugh about it. Have everyone write down their worst real or fictional Christmas memories on a scrap of blue paper and throw them into a coal bin. Pick scraps at random and try to guess whose woe it is. Come up with ways to make the situation even worse. Devise ways to make the winter woe hilarious. After all, “Reader’s Digest” has a section called “Laughter is the Best Medicine” so we know it must be true.

• If you’d rather be alone — go for it. Take a day — or days — to take care of just yourself. There is nothing wrong with a solo holiday candlelit bath, preferably with peppermint bubbles. Do yoga. Lift weights. Heck, it’s New Mexico, you can even ride your bicycle. Read — or write — a book. Make some art or poetry. Sometimes a brisk walk in nature will do the trick. Just be sure to wear your Chapstick and your pea green Doc Martens.