Next year, Christmas will be different. - (12/21/2021)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

"Hello, Mrs. Jones, how was your Christmas?" the pharmacist said to his patient. "Exhausting," she replied, "And sort of a letdown. Now I must deal with all the remnants that took a month to prepare and one day to enjoy." "Yes, Christmas Day goes by in a flash!" remarked the pharmacist. "Well, my house looks like Hiroshima after the atomic bomb hit it. And now it's up to me straighten it out," she said. "So why do I go through every year? It just depresses me afterward."  

Call it what you want. The holiday blues. The post-Christmas slump. The vacantness of January. However, many people experience anxiety or depression during and after the holiday season. A survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness revealed that 64% of people have feelings of disappointment, melancholy, or sadness following the holidays. The fact that it gets dark at 5 PM and that the COVID pandemic is still restricting daily activities does not help. 

The holidays can be a magical time that we look forward to with childlike anticipation. We remember growing up and counting the days until the big day arrived. Christmas gave us a break from the monotony of our everyday lives. Even if you are an adult and have children and grandchildren of your own, you become heady with the preparations. Christmas cards, cookies, decorations, parties, and the hustle and bustle of shopping for gifts can be exciting. The time is all fun and games until you wake up to reality. 

The after-holiday reality can slam you like a wrecking ball. Here come the bills for the gifts. Stepping on the bathroom scale after overeating from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day is a scene from a horror movie. Your sleep schedule is a mess. Too many late-night parties and too many lemon drop martinis have taken their toll. And you know you are going to break all your New Year resolutions by January 10. Should you unplug your brain and go to bed until February?

What you can do now. Take down Yuletide decorations with a friend, a relative, or capture one of your kids or grandkids. Even if they sit on the couch and do nothing, you can have a gabfest, play dance music, and get the job done. Go outdoors and take short walks. Walks are good exercise, and the brisk air will clear your head. Drink a lot of water. Cut back on the carbs. Get back on a sensible sleep schedule. Know that if your depression continues, do not hesitate to call a healthcare professional for some guidance. 

What you can do next Christmas. Even though it's an entire year from now, make a list, and put it into an envelope marked "do not open until Thanksgiving." Put on the list questions you need to answer before the next holiday season starts, such as "Do I need to send out Christmas cards?" At 58 cents a stamp, better think twice. Also, say "no" to every other party. You will conserve energy. Also, your liver will be one year older and will appreciate your occasional sobriety. Cut back on the holiday decorations. The inflatable Nativity scene? Chuck it. It just blows down. The contest to see who can string up the most lights in the neighborhood? Enjoy everyone other's lights and bask in the glow of a smaller electric bill.

"The holidays should not be a draining drag," the pharmacist advised. "It should be fun, and then it's over. You should not need a month to recuperate. Promise yourself now and write it on your 2022 calendar so you won’t forget." "Next Christmas will be different!" vowed Mrs. Jones. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a recovering pharmacist and writer-in-residence at Rx-Press.


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