Fight off Depression from Winter Cold,
Long Nights, and Holiday Stress
The winter crud that climbed into me last year sat into my sinuses and didn't leave for two months. So this Friday I'm getting my flu shot. And to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the holiday burn-out blues, I'm going to give myself some powerful preventive medicine. If you want to inoculate yourself against a mood infection this winter, here are some things that will keep your spirits up.
- Have realistic expectations. Don’t sentimentalize old holiday memories too much. And don’t go the other way either, replaying empty, depressing memories of winters and holidays past. Content yourself with reality by enjoying what's right in front of you. How?
- Count your blessings. I like to do this when I have trouble going to sleep, or when I want to turn a bad day around. Thanking God in prayer takes a lot of loneliness and self-pity out of your nostrils.
- Dust off two or three good holiday memories as annual keepers. Do this for all four holidays this season: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Tell somebody else about your memories, and make at least one good new memory this year for each holiday.
- Take time to slow down. When you wake up and smell the coffee, smell the candles and the cookies too. Look at the houses all lit up. Walk or drive through neighborhoods with friends. Break out some old and new holiday clothing, and enjoy all the special foods and music too.
- Expand your family of origin, to include a family of choice too. Invite friends over, and gift them. Treat them like family should be treated. Instead of cutting your dysfunctional family out of your life, expose them to your healthy friends.
- Believe in holy spirit. If believe seems too strong and absolute for you, pretend that holy spirit once did take up full residence in a human being, and is still doing it. When you act like something’s true, it begins to feel true, which will get you into the real spirit for all four holidays. They all started out as religious holidays, but they have all become overly commercialized.
- Believe in saints, not ghosts. All Saints Eve used to be remembering loved ones who have passed, whose lives showed you glimpses of heaven. If you think people’s spirits can hang around and affect other people after they’ve died, don’t look at ghosts during Halloween, or the Scrooges of Christmas past. Look at Jesus. Look at folks you have loved and lost, and try to see how their hearts and ways are still living around you. Believe or pretend for a week that good people’s love outlives them, and see how it goes.
- Act out forgiveness. Try praying for and actually blessing your enemies for a holiday moment, or seasonal. Forget about trusting them – just wish a meanie well. Do something nice for them, as a way of establishing your distance, and of saying that you’re different. It’s your gift to God and yourself, even more than to the one who hurt you.
- Go outside where it’s quiet and natural. Wrap up real good, and stay out long enough to take it in, letting it take you in too. Drive through your neighborhood or another's and when you see holiday love, joy, and beauty, roll down your windows and breathe it in.
- Make a private shrine. Put something out in your home that reminds you of someone you love. If that person is God or a person who has taught you much about how to live and love, put a heart-warming token of your love for that person where you will see it often. After the holidays, maybe you won’t want to take it down.
- Give to others, without expecting anything in return—especially appreciation. Give just for the pure joy of it, and let others’ appreciation of you be a pleasant surprise. Feed the homeless, visit a shut-in, or give anonymously to needy people you don’t know.
- Make the New Year a new kind of year. Write down three ways you could do this, and ask three people to help you with these changes.
If you believe these things will really help, but you can't make yourself do any of them, you may be clinically depressed. This week I have made three podcasts on depression, and the first one is just out today: http://brainfood.libsyn.com/overcoming-depression-part-1-of-3 Just don't fight depression alone. Fighting off the blues is definitely a team sport.
And remember most of all that we reap what we sow. If we look around at what is missing, what is wrong, we will find it, and sadly, it will find us. But if we look for what is good, true, uplifting, if we try to bring good things to others, we may discover that winter becomes our favorite time of year.