Debbie Jacob writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
The Christmas season is not a happy time for many people. No one likes to acknowledge this because we want to believe it is a magical, ideal time of year when all of our romantic and materialistic wishes come true. The fact is Christmas puts a lot of pressure on us to find the perfect gift and be the perfect person.
Many people who get through Christmas only find themselves falling deep into depression right after the holiday when they have to face the fact they have spent far too much money for Christmas.
I used to feel like I had somehow let my children down no matter how many gifts I bought. I felt I hadn’t found the perfect gift. The reality never meets the fantasy we create, and we carry those fantasies like baggage from Christmas to Christmas.
An article I read in Psychology Today, titled “Why people get depressed at Christmas” by Ray Williams, said that studies in the US show that 45 per cent of people surveyed admitted to feeling sad for Christmas.
Over the years, I found a number of ways to fight the Christmas blues. I’ll share those with you today.
1. Make your mind up that there is no ideal Christmas: Remind yourself that there will be ups and downs, and the actual holiday might not be perfect. Expecting less from the holiday helps.
2. Make a Christmas list and stick to it: Who do you really need to give gifts to at Christmas? Make a list and check it twice. Limit the people on your list.
3. Set a reasonable budget for Christmas and stick to it: It’s too late this year, but next year try saving money in the months before Christmas to put towards your Christmas budget.
4. Skip Secret Santa: Secret Santa never turns out to be fair and equitable. Someone always gets hurt. People don’t follow the rules. They forget to bring gifts. Some people underspend; others overspend. Scratch Secret Santa off your Christmas list.
5. Talk all of your friends into a one-gift exchange: Have each of your friends pick a friend’s name out of a hat and buy one nice gift for the person chosen. Set a reasonable price for a nice gift, and make it clear that people should stick to a given price range.
6. Tell your friends that you won’t be receiving Christmas gifts this year: I learned this little trick from my daughter, Ijanaya. Tell people to take any money they had planned to use for your Christmas gift and give it to you so that you can donate it to charity.
7. Buy one nice, memorable gift for each family member: Skip buying all those meaningless gifts that add up to a lot of money, but are never remembered, and buy one gift that wows.
8. Buy an unexpected gift for someone: There’s nothing like the surprise on someone’s face when you make his or her Christmas.
9. Use your imagination and make gifts: Homemade gifts from cookies and cakes to arts and crafts are more meaningful for you and the person receiving them because they are hand-made.
10. Volunteer for some community service: Churches and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can often use volunteers for projects they run in communities throughout the country. Volunteering brings the true meaning of Christmas home and it helps you to make a better holiday for someone who is in need.
11. Read a book: It is the buildup to the holidays that is often responsible for the holiday letdown when Christmas finally comes. Everyone can get wrapped up in all of the social activities and the exhilarating feeling of the building excitement. Then, suddenly, it’s all over. Taking some time to relax with a book before the holidays can help create a sense of balance and provide an opportunity for some introspection.
I can’t promise a magical cure for the Christmas blues, but I can promise you a fighting chance to deal with Christmas depression simply by finding ways to be in more control of the holiday.