For today’s column I dipped into my archives, mostly out of curiosity to see what I was writing about back in 2000.
“Holidays are a time of joy,” I wrote, “but they are also a time of stress.”
I don’t have to tell you that Christmas 2020 will be (or already is) different from anything we’ve experienced before. Let’s look at how I talked about the holiday blues 20 years ago ...
“We’ve all experienced a dip in our mood, for whatever reason,” I said, “just when it’s the season to celebrate thankfulness and to be jolly. But drinking that extra egg nog or pigging out on holiday candy is not the solution.”
“If you are feeling overwhelmed,” I continued, “by the thought of finding just the right gift, or you’re feeling alone during the holidays because of a death, divorce or separation from your loved one, or if you are feeling obligated to visit or entertain friends or relatives that you would rather avoid, perhaps the following suggestions might help minimize the Holiday Blues.”
Reading that now sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it?
I went on to admit that while I’m no psychologist, I can say from the [then] brief time I’ve been on this planet that there’s no cure-all for the holiday blues. That, of course, was speaking the obvious.
My original article was titled, “Ten Ways to Beat the Holiday Blues.” The first tip illustrates how much COVID-19 has changed our lives:
• If you’re lonely, then show up where people are. Attend special holiday events such as performances, concerts and community potlucks.
Well now, THAT’S not going to work. So what can we do to beat the holiday blues?
A WALK THAT WORKS
One thing that is universal and timeless is exercise. It’s important to keep those endorphins pumping, especially if you have a tendency to give into the blues by overeating or reaching for not-so-healthy feeds. Mask up and get outside. Go for a walk, even if you walk 10 minutes in one direction and then turn around. Fort Abercrombie is a beautiful, year-round place to visit, no matter what the weather is like.
Choose healthy food. Twenty years ago, on the day before Thanksgiving, Shoshana Cotler, owner of Shoshana’s Gym, handed out a special flyer called “Top Ten Survival Tips,” which included ways to avoid the holiday bulge. The list included:
• Minimize “tasting” while cooking.
• If you’re going to a potluck (okay, maybe not this year), bring a veggie tray so you’ll be sure there is something healthy to munch on.
• Avoid cheese, olives and the infamous logs o’ meat.
• Drink plenty of water.
• Wait at least 10 minutes before going back for another helping. It takes time for your brain to realize your stomach is full!
• Save room for a bit of dessert. After all, it IS a holiday!
Speaking of dessert, Shoshana shared alternative recipes. Here’s a great pie crust recipe that’s quick, healthy and easy to make: Place 2 cups of rice cereal and 12 fat-free Apple Newton cookies in a food processor. Process until the crumbs are very fine. Press the crumb mixture firmly into a pie pan spray-coated with nonstick cooking spray.
HONEY, LET’S DECORATE!
It’s amazing how just adding a little light can brighten one’s mood during this time of year. So transform your personal spaces with lots of holiday lights. (During my first few years of going to sea on research ships, my dad sent me a couple strings of lights so I could tack them up around my bunk. It made my tiny living space feel a lot less lonesome.)
Be thankful for all the things you DO have and avoid focusing on what you lack. Count your blessings, not your burdens. Give thanks to people in your life. Remember, when you bring joy to others, a little of it always stays with the giver.
NURTURE YOURSELF WITH GOOD READS
Read a good book or a selection of stories that focus on the positive things in life. Pat Stone, one of the co-authors of “Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul,” sent me this story 20 years ago:
“A Penny In My Boot” by Todd Brady
Yesterday I came home from work very tired. I went to the living room, pulled off my boots and lay down on our new sofa for a nap. My 5-year-old daughter, Holli, came in to visit and look at the Christmas tree. I asked her to put a penny in the water well of the tree stand. (I’d heard long ago that a penny in water releases a preservative of some sort.)
Holli asked why.
“Because it makes the tree last longer,” I replied. “It doesn’t die as quickly with a penny in there.”
I gave her a penny from my pocket, and she crawled under the tree and put it in the water well. Soon after, I fell asleep on the couch.
Eventually, I got up long enough to migrate to the bedroom.
This morning I got up and went back off to work. By the time I finished the 40-minute commute, I’d noticed some funny feeling in my right boot. As I walked around at work, I kept feeling something in there.
After a while, I took my right boot off and put my hand inside, but I couldn’t find anything. I put my boot back on-and still felt something. Was it my imagination? Finally, I took my boot off again and tipped it over to pour out whatever was inside.
A penny dropped out.
My beautifully kind and warmhearted daughter had put a penny in my boot, so “I” would last longer, too.