Avoiding Holiday Depression: Notes from a Single Dad

WHOLE-sadsanta

Here come the holidays, and as a single parent that means a lot of the time is going to be without your kids. What’s the plan?

I was surprised yesterday, Thursday, when my kids arrived back in my life after a full week’s hiatus, how much my mood and behaviors changed. I had to get the house clean for them. I immediately had conversation partners, and got to hear catch-up tales of their most recent adventures. Even looking over homework is a joy when you’re kids return to your house. It’s sort of like a holiday on my weekends anyway. Okay, but about the coming holiday and Christmas break from school.

There’s a lot of time when I won’t have my kids, so this year I’m mapping out a plan to keep my own heart as jolly as possible during the holidays alone.

The first part is to get a plan.

Often others are also looking for something to do during the off time and all it takes is a phone call.

Extra day’s off can be a problem if you don’t have a rich “other” life. The worst thing you can do is isolate and hole up in your cave. While it might feel like the right thing to do, especially if the weather has just dropped a cold front down your neck, it’s probably best to stay somewhat active during the holidays. Here are the kinds of things I do.

Schedule time to be with other friends. Other single folks, your support group friends, or sports buddies. Any of your friends would probably welcome an added hand in the kitchen in return for some pie and companionship. Do it. Ask. I would do almost anything to give shelter and comfort to my struggling friends.

Go for walks, play games, take the pet on a vacation to the beach. It’s all about your attitude and how YOU approach it. I’ve got a little dog who loves the beach. Even though the cold front has blown in, I love the Winter on Texas beaches, and so does my dog. Why not pack up and drive out-of-town right after the T-day lunch? (Much coffee required, maybe go easy on the turkey and pie.)

Line up some entertainment. If you’re not dating, perhaps a movie date with an old friend. Catching up with friends is what the holidays are all about. All this gratitude sharing, give them part of yourself to be thankful for. It’s okay to be the instigator. Go for it. And don’t give up after a few rejections. Make a list of the movies you want to see and then start calling until you have a HIT. Often others are also looking for something to do during the off time and all it takes is a phone call.

Remind yourself how much you love certain sports or activities you’ve done in the past. So you haven’t been playing tennis, that’s okay. It’s a great time to pick up the racket and call a partner for a “hit.” How are the tires on your bike? Get’em pumped up and go for a bike ride. Sometimes fitness can be an issue, if you’ve been low and less than sporty. But that’s okay too. Take a walk around a park or a lake. Visit a public park and walk the trails. Walking is almost always within doctor’s recommended allowances. (Be sure and check if you do have medical conditions. And be sure and pack plenty snacks and water for the journey.)

Find a favorite old book and read it again. Catcher in the Rye, Razor’s Edge, and Siddhartha are my go-to books. Once you’re IN your IN. Enjoy the familiarity and voice from your past. Sometimes these books got me through difficult times. And while I’m pretty dang happy at the moment, a great book always sounds like a wonderful bed or couch companion.

Try Meetup.com just to get out of your rut. There are probably a ton of singles groups in your area. And they’re not all about “being single” or “hooking up.” One of my favorite one’s a few years ago was a group that played trivia night at a local pizza restaurant. And while the single mix was mostly men, the playfulness and food was always good. The point is to break out of your isolation and just GO. JUST DO IT.

Your own peace of mind, and your own acceptance of yourself, just as you are, is the most important thing you can learn this season.

Go see some live music. My city is known for having great music every night, but you’ve probably got some options in your area as well. Nothing changes my mood better than an uptempo funk or pop song. And seeing the musicians play it live is even more tonic. And get this, there will be other people there, maybe even other singles.

The point is to stop the bad habit of isolation during the lonely holidays. There might have been a time in your past when that is all you could imagine. But you’re stronger and better now, time to get up and get going. Take naps if you feel like it. Sleep in. Stay-up late on an Orange Is the New Black jag if you want. But make sure you make time to be with other people.

There are a lot of people out there that love you even when you’re not feeling well. And the worst thing you can do is feel sad and lonely during the holidays. Something about the season makes some people, me in the past, even more depressed. But you can reach out and reach people who will be around you. Even if you’re alone in a movie theater with a bucket of popcorn and a Slurpee, at least you’re with other people.

Get your butt on the trail to recovery and fitness at that same time. And then, if you don’t, don’t sweat that either. It’s easy to be hard on yourself during the holidays. But your own peace of mind, and your own acceptance of yourself, just as you are, is the most important thing you can learn this season.

Don’t like my ideas, don’t like my post. Ditch it and do whatever you like. I’ve been there, and I’ve struggled with depression in the past. But this year I’ve got a plan. You might want to get your’s in place as well. Try to find a way to connect with others, even when you feel like crawling in a hole and being alone is a better idea. It never is.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: sad santa hat, jeffrey, creative commons usage

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2 thoughts on “Avoiding Holiday Depression: Notes from a Single Dad

  1. …start a writing project with a good friend…

    Ha, JK, these are all great and timely! I agree that planning in advance, booking myself into activities has been the best anti-dote to the Divorcemas Blues

    xo

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