Post Holiday Depression 12/26/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Today begins a difficult time for a lot of people who, unlike me, actually enjoy and look forward to Christmas. I don’t think it will be as bad this year as it has been since Christmas actually fell on a Friday. That gives people a weekend to recover. Still, many people will be struggling today, and for a while.

My hypothesis is that, since Christmas starts pretty much around October before Halloween, that means that people celebrate Christmas for three months, the length of a season, or fully one quarter of the year, and in some cases longer. Christmas decorations, advertisements and gifts are out for three months. Suddenly, one day, one glorious celebration and it’s all over.

Such tremendous build-up, and what’s left? Returning unwanted gifts? A few belated holiday parties? We do have New Year’s one week later, but that’s a weak celebration compared to the big one.

Here’s the truth. A lot of people feel that post-Christmas let down. You are not alone. If you feel like you need support, don’t be ashamed to reach out for help. Call your spouse, your friends, your loved ones if you need to. And at the same time, be supportive of one another.

Not everyone will be struggling with this letdown, but a lot of people will. So be kind to one another, check in on your friends, make sure they’re okay. The smallest gesture can help your friends and loved ones out immensely. Invite them for dinner of leftovers from the Christmas feast, or bring them some Christmas cookies.

It’s all downhill now. Many people have the next week off of work, a week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve although I personally need to get back in the swing of work and start preparing classes. It’s okay, it’ll be a nice diversion from the work I’ve been doing around the house, but for some people it will be a time of “coming down” from the Christmas season.

There are some tricks that you can use to help deal with depression. For example, exercise. Yes, you’ve heard that before, but it’s true that exercise releases endorphins and helps people to cope with stress and depression. Exercise is such an odd thing; it’s so hard to motivate to get started, and yet, once completed it really does make you feel better. Sweets are usually my “go to”, but frankly they don’t help. It’s a short-term benefit as you enjoy the taste, but the calories are empty and it does not release endorphins, so by the time you’ve finished them, there’s just nothing. As an additional benefit to exercise, if the weather allows for exercising outdoors, then sunlight has also been shown to help fight depression and stress.

Hot showers have been shown to actively help fight depression and stress. It’s been hypothesized that the stream of hot water through the air creates anions (negatively charged ions) just as air rain generates ions leading to lightening. At the low concentration in a shower, you don’t have to worry about them electrocuting you, but supposedly they help release endorphins as well.

One of the best ways to fight depression is with physical contact. Yes, sex, but the simple act of hugging or even holding hands releases those same endorphins. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, we’re likely suffering from a severe shortage of hugs and human contact, which might make this holiday season particularly difficult to get through, but hopefully you have people living in your home to help with physical contact. I, personally, do not, and I have no doubt that my lack of physical contact is a significant contributing factor in my chronic depression, but my friend did talk me into spending my money, again, on yet something else, namely, a weighted blanket. I’m told that the weight of the blanket (she talked me into the 3.7 ton blanket…I’m not convinced she likes me) is supposed to help release endorphins in a fashion analogous to a hug.

So here we are, in the final throws of a year so monumentally bad that memes are poking fun of it. We have a week left before 2021, two weeks before Congress is scheduled to approve (or argue) the results of the Electoral College count, and about three weeks from when we are scheduled to inaugurate a new president. We are about three weeks before a new semester begins for me, and I’m about a month away from my emotional breakdown. Okay, maybe it’ll be sooner, but remember two things. First, you are not alone, and second, be kind and understanding. We’re all in this together.

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