The Fit Student—Beat the Holiday Blues

Are you spending Christmas alone?   Well, you may spend the season alone, but not lonely and heartbroken, aching for a Christmas kitten.  Instead, ward off weekend and holiday blues—with a plan.

But first, let’s study the blues.

My elderly landlady felt stricken with loneliness.  She huddled over her garden and trimmed her apple trees, but did little else outside of church.  She could have gone to a gym or taken a class—even night classes: Computers for Seniors.  Anything but cry alone, lonely.  Crying, that is, until I’d tap on her door.

During holidays, she’d get a gift from me and a visit with her in-law.  But one holiday, her in-law and I both let it slide.  When I came home, I overheard sobs, tears shed the whole day.  So, I rushed to buy a belated bouquet.

A work friend from Newfoundland feared holidays.  She spent two weeks at Christmas cooped up alone.  She called it the worst time of her life.  And someone else told me she spent Christmas alone.  Not a call.  Not a gift.  Broke my heart.

I wonder what life would feel like alone—if Cuddles and Papa left my world.  With a plan, I could commit to gym and take classes, go to church and tend to hobbies.  Without a plan, I’d likely stay in bed, stricken, depressed.  And the more I sleep, the sleepier and sicker I get.

As a teen, I romanticized life on my own.  Surely, I’d saunter—proud—into restaurants, ordering meals for one.  I’d go—confidently—to shows, sitting alone dead-center aisle.  I’d live—blissfully—alone, chasing whatever dreams I fancied.  Now, as an adult, I’ve changed my mind.  Cuddles gives me more love, self-esteem, and belonging than the world did combined.  Love trumps all.

Yet, one woman worsened when she found a boyfriend.  Her smile and spark disappeared.  She bottled-up, acted strange, wallowed in secretive shame, overblown.  She seemed hog-tied, banned from chasing her dreams.  In short, she met the blues.

Dr.  David D.  Burns helps you kick the blues in his book Feeling Good:

  • Why fight feeling bad? Because “depression … paralyzes your will power.  … Because you accomplish very little, you feel worse and worse” (p.  81).
  • The worst thing you can do for the blues? “DO-NOTHINGNESS: lying around in bed all day long, staring at the ceiling and counting negative thoughts” (p. 83).
  • To ward off sorrow, make a Daily Activity Schedule: “Write out an hour-by-hour plan for what you would like to accomplish each day … At the end of the day … record in each time slot what you actually did during the day” (p.  94).
  • Make columns in your Daily Activity Schedule: “Label each activity with the letter M for mastery or the letter P for pleasure …. Estimate the actual amount of pleasure [or mastery] … by using a zero to five rating” (p.  96).
  • Schedule in more of the feel-goods: “You will see that some [activities] have given you a greater sense of mastery and pleasure, as indicated by higher scores …. Schedule more of those activities and avoid [the] others …” (p.  97).
  • Record even slack: “Even if it was just staring at the wall, write it down” (p. 96).
  • So, schedule to combat sadness: “The Daily Activity Schedule can be especially helpful for a common syndrome … [called] the ‘weekend / holiday blues.’ This is a pattern of depression most often reflected in people who are single and have their greatest emotional difficulties when alone” (p.  97).

As one motivational speaker says, schedule your dream days—live them out—but don’t neglect duties.

And if stricken with sadness, then trim apple trees, dine alone—or cuddle Christmas kittens.   Whether lonely or hog-tied, get busy beating holiday blues.