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Holiday depression: What's got you unwrapped?

Holiday depression: What's got you unwrapped?

By Randy B. Hecht

Does the approach of the holiday season fill you with dread? A recent online survey revealed that you're not alone. Since you can't just rip the month out of your calendar and pretend it doesn't exist, consider these holiday survival strategies.

Loneliness, said 67% of singles who responded to the survey, is the chief cause of holiday depression. How ironic — the "lonely" contingent forms quite a crowd. That doesn't mean that while everyone else on the planet is enjoying a family meal, you'll be doomed to spend the holiday at some bar where you alternately formulate and dodge bad pickup lines. But it does mean you're probably not the only person you know who has no plans that day. Instead of wishing someone would invite you somewhere, why not issue some invitations yourself? Or spend the day as a volunteer serving hot meals to people for whom a hot meal, even one served on paper plates, is a big deal. That'll give you a fresh perspective.
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Commercialism (13%) and spending money (8%) are respondents' second and third most common holiday season complaints. Fortunately, they're also the easiest to resolve. Remember Smokey the Bear's slogan, "Only YOU can prevent forest fires"? It's the same with equating holiday happiness with near-bankruptcy. Set a budget and stick to it. Agree with family and friends to set limits on spending and use the time you save not shopping to spend more time together. Think about what you really want out of the holidays. Most likely it's something less material than anything advertised in the catalogs that are breaking your mail carrier's back. Whatever it is, it's a gift you and your loved ones will cut up a few credit cards, avoid the crowds in the stores, and make it happen!

Dealing with family has 7% of respondents down. Let's face it: The Norman Rockwellian family meal has gone the way of the Saturday Evening Post...if it ever existed anywhere outside our imaginations. Your best bet? Learn to laugh at the family foibles. After all, if you spent a holiday with a friend's family and saw them playing out the same psychodrama, you would indeed be beset by fits of the giggles in between those times when you assured your friend that you have relatives just like that. It's a law of nature: things done by someone else's family are raw material for great anecdotes; the same things, when done by your family, scar you for life. But unless your Aunt Marge actually issues a maniacal laugh as she slices the turkey with a chain saw, don't sweat it.

Finally, gloomy weather is the chief nemesis of 4% of those surveyed. We really do need sunlight, and for some people the shortest days of the year are also the saddest. The solution? Get out into the sunlight every day and bring extra light into your home. Candles and holiday lights will brighten your home and your mood. And they go great with hot chocolate and fresh-baked cookies, which can also do wonders for lifting your spirits.

Happy holidays ... and may we live next year in peace.

Randy B. Hecht is a New York-based writer and editor.
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