I checked in with a good friend recently who happens to be a therapist. She sighed and reminded me, “Oh, you know, it’s the holiday season in mental health…When you serve people in recovery, you get used to hearing from folks how much they truly hate the holidays.
This is the time of year people tell me about their Seasonal Affective Disorder (which has the greatest acronym ever). Disclaimer – S.A.D. is a terrible condition that affects millions. Truth: an awful lot of us profess to have this condition and we’re kidding ourselves.
Passive approaches almost never work. It’s tempting to blame being fucked upped on a condition that we were born with or that is an inescapable result of things beyond our control. But it’s bullshit.
S.A.D. just happens to coincide with Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and winter. This is the time of year we feel obligated to be around people we don’t like, have an adversarial relationship with the environment, spend too much time on the couch, experience copious amounts of stress and put ourselves in financial straits.
And we do the same shit every year…as though there’s no better option.
5 Ways to improve your life from November – April
1. Evaluate the people in your life. If you feel obligated to spend time with family, take a moment and consider who taught you to feel that way. Do you really want anyone feeling beholden to you? Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t related to them, would I want to know them?
Do what you will. The key is to choose it. You don’t gotta, you don’t hafta. Do shit to avoid feeling guilty and you get to build more resentment. Screw that.
2. Stop buying gifts. The relief my family and I have experienced by virtue of agreeing only to buy presents for children is enormous. We spilt funds between giving to charities and taking a vacation. Build memories, stop buying shit, and stop spending money you don’t have.
3. Stop making New Year’s resolutions. Like, what? You haven’t had enough empty promises and disappointments in your life? Make plans and get someone to hold you accountable for them but stop bullshitting yourself with nice ideas you aren’t going to follow through on.
4. Get back to basics. Everyone wants to do amazing things and nobody wants to do maintenance work. It’s the common sense approach that only the most successful use: Drink more water, eat good food, and go for a walk. Stop marveling at how simple the things you don’t do are and go fucking do them.
5. Help somebody who really needs it. Got five bucks? Your local homeless shelter can put that to amazing use. Be a better version of yourself – not just at the holidays when we’re feeling a little extra guilty for what we have and what others don’t. Everyone wants to volunteer at a soup kitchen at Christmas because it feels good. Stop being benevolent and show up during a snow storm in March.