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Content warning: mental health
To be perfectly honest with you all, the winter holiday season is something I do not look forward to at all.
I get the winter blues every year, so the lack of sunlight at this time of year dampens my mood in and of itself. (Seriously, Ontario. Why must you be such a cold and dark place now? Ha.)
I used to work in a field that was horribly busy during the winter holiday season. This meant that I worked weird, late hours, couldn’t eat meals at the same time every day, was often sleep deprived, and had a much higher chance than usual of running into impatient, furious, and unkind customers multiple times every single day. (The vast majority of our customers were perfectly lovely people, of course, but the bad apples made an already difficult time of year so much worse).
The relatives I wish I could spend the holidays with live far away. This can be a lonely time of year to be so far away from them.
So when the holidays start threatening to roll around again, I need an action plan to deal with my low mood, bad memories, and loneliness. My goal each year is to find the joy in what I can and do everything I can to minimize or eliminate anything that fills me with a sense of dread.
What sorts of things do I like to do?
1) Look at Christmas, New Years, Chanukah and other holiday lights. Toronto is filled with them, and it makes me so happy.
2) Splurge on delicious food. For example, I might go out to an upscale restaurant for one night or buy that fancy cut of meat, vegan advent calendar, or non-local type of fruit or vegetable at the grocery store that I’d usually be too thrifty to add to the grocery cart.
3) Send care packages to loved ones. Shipping to the U.S. from Canada is expensive, but it’s so worth it to get their excited texts when the goodies arrive. There’s nothing like the joy of giving.
4) Play Christmas music. This is kind of funny because I don’t really celebrate Christmas otherwise. Some of those carols are beautiful and have really stood the test of time, though!
5) Celebrate the Winter Solstice with a walk and special meal. I’ll do the walk outdoors if the weather permits it, but the food is always eaten indoors because December is so cold and dark. The menu changes around most years but often includes pie because that’s such a delicious dessert. No, I’m not pagan….I’m simply always relieved to finally have more sunlight on the way, and what better way to celebrate than with food?
6) Say no. I set aside the last two weeks of December as a time to rest. Unless it’s something mandatory, urgent, or a fun social event that I genuinely can’t wait to attend, I say no to a lot of things I normally say yes to. I simply don’t have the emotional energy now that I do in other seasons, and that’s okay.
7) Reread and rewatch classic Christmas and winter stories. I find it comforting to revisit tales like A Christmas Carol or A Christmas Story in December.
8) Choose kind and pleasant people. I can get along with anyone and have a history of bending over backwards to include folks that might not be included on many other guest lists for any number of reasons. With that being said, I trim down the list of people I’m willing to spend time with to folks who have a solid history of being wonderful and empathetic human beings when December rolls around and my emotional energy has worn thin. It doesn’t matter if we’re legally related or how we know each other. Anyone who is a joy to socialize with is happily invited to hang out with me now.