For a month, the world has been lit up like a literal Christmas tree. Houses and businesses, streets and neighborhoods, once barely illuminated with a porch light or street lamp have been aglow with festive holiday brightness in celebration of the big day. The music has changed from the normal bump and grind to jingle bells and harking angels. Even people who are normally grumpy have a smile splitting their face and I actually saw a Democrat hugging a Republican. It’s a magical time of year, a joyous celebration of the best in people.
Then Christmas arrives with a burst of family and exploding wrapping paper. There are Christmas dramas, school plays, and Girl Scout caroling. Add to all of that extra church services and charity participation, not to mention the shopping and shopping and more shopping. December is an explosion of activity that has us constantly running this way and that trying to get it all in. We’re busier than normal, but we love every minute of it as we find ourselves snatched along in the jovial atmosphere.
Christmas morning bursts upon us with cries of “Santa came!” and soon we’re all huddled around the tree as young and old alike tear into their prizes. There’s laughter and smiles as gifts are oooed and ahhed over and a feeling of closeness wraps around you tighter than any ribbon on any package. Candy is nibbled before breakfast and a tree that was once full of anticipated wonder is stripped bare and left deserted. Christmas dinner will soon be on the table and another turkey carved up as more family arrives. The house is full of noise as well as people and everyone is feeling loved and gracious.
At the end of the day exhausted little ones are tucked into bed, clutching their favorite toy of the day. The pretty wrapping is shoved into garbage bags and set out by the road for whenever trash pickup resumes again. Leftovers are dumped into containers, but no one will really eat them having had enough turkey to last until next Thanksgiving. With the celebration over, everyone heads back home, not knowing when they’ll be able to visit again. At the end of the day, you stand alone in a quiet, dark house, smiling at the great day you had with those you love.
It’s in the days that follow that the depression will set in. The house is quieter. The lights are no longer blinking. Decorations are taken down and packed away as the Christmas tree is dumped beside the trash out at the curb. The bustle of activity is gone leaving a void in its wake, and where you were surrounded by a multitude of guests, now your voice echoes off the walls. Your body, which was pushed just a few days ago, now only wants to sleep. Even now I want to take a nap as opposed to finishing this blog post.
Perhaps depression isn’t the right word. It’s more a tired sadness. Our body has grown used to doing something; our eyes used to seeing the celebrations that surrounded us. Now it’s gone. It’s as if the liveliness of spring slammed right into the hibernation of winter. It’s a 180 degree turn and our minds, bodies, and emotions can’t adjust that quickly. We need a gradual let down, not a sudden drop. We spent over a month anticipating one day. I think we should at least take two weeks to wean us off the holiday. Maybe take the decorations down gradually, a room a week or a strand of lights every few days. My body and spirit don’t adjust well to drastic changes. I need time or I’m going to be found huddled in a corner sucking my thumb.
I already know the girls aren’t going to go for that idea. They wanted their house back to normal a couple of days after they went up. However, there are other ways to chase away the sadness that sometimes follows the holiday. Part of that is to keep yourself active. Not as active as you were, perhaps, but don’t suddenly go stagnant in the busy column. Reach out and be sociable, heal a broken friendship or take a newer one deeper. Learn something new and challenge your mind as well as your body. Invest in a charity or better yet, participate in one. The idea is to do something besides sit at home in a dark house. Stretch yourself past your normal boundaries and you’ll be able to keep the holiday depression at bay. Cheerfulness can be a yearlong mindset.
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