Thanksgiving Depression: These Five Steps Will Help You Cope


Thanksgiving Depression: These Five Steps Will Help You Cope

You pull the collar of your flannel shirt about your neck to ward off the chill. Refilling your coffee cup, more out of boredom than real need, you shuffle to the window and take in the wintry scene. The leaves have by now abandoned their trees, the grass has browned and even the pavement seems harsher than just last week. The barrenness unsettles you, reminding you of the barrenness you feel within. “Well,” you whisper, “Happy Thanksgiving.”

Holidays are certainly meant to be joyous times of celebration. Family and friends unite, sharing both food and folly, as they renew relationships stretched thin by the passage of time. But, for many Americans, holidays are stark reminders of personal pain – gift wrapped appropriately for the present torturous season. Failed relationships, loneliness, physical or mental disabilities, and more serve to heighten the sense of isolation that is felt in the midst of the public partying.

There is no quick fix – no simple cure. But, with some realistic planning the pain associated with Thanksgiving, and other holidays, can be minimized. Try these five ideas in your quest for a more peaceful Thanksgiving this year:

1. Assess Options Early. The deadline is indeed deadly. While deadlines at times serve as positive reinforcement in our lives, holiday deadlines are absolutely brutal. The closer the time comes, the greater the pressure becomes to make a decision – ANY decision. This is no time to dilly-dally. The posture of the day here is to be proactive. This is especially important if, in fact, you may find yourself alone at Thanksgiving. By resolving this issue early you allow yourself time to set positive, personal plans into action. Do you like strolls in the park at dawn? Fabulous. Or, are you the sleep until noon and grab lunch at the bistro type? Terrific. By planning early, you’ll feel a positive sense of momentum as Thanksgiving approaches.

2. Mark The Calendar. This sounds quite simple, but is actually very powerful. By marking your plans on the “Official Keeper and Organizer of Life,” you are saying to yourself that you, indeed, have plans. Even if those plans include no one else, you do have plans. Go check your calendar – it’s official.

It may be, it is actually, a means of playing a trick on your mind, but the impact is quite concrete. Now, instead of fretting about what to do at Thanksgiving, you have the peace of knowing that all is in order. You can relax. This also gives you a wonderful degree of freedom to simply consider other options. Now that you have plans, the importance of your considerations is much less stressful – you can take it or leave it. If you stumble upon a more enticing way to spend your day it’s simply an added bonus.

3. Be Definitive With Times. Don’t fall into the temptation of being careless at this stage of your planning. Be specific, even if that is not your normal bent, in each of the activities you plan for the day. Most of all, plan stingily. Allot time periods to activities that are on the shy side of what you actually expect they may require. If the stroll by the lake usually takes an hour, figure it for forty-five minutes. The two-and-a-half hour afternoon matinee? Two hours tops. The purpose in scheduling in this manner is to give yourself the opportunity to feel satisfied at the end of the day – which, like the other portions of the day, should be both thoughtfully planned and well defined. By planning in this abbreviated fashion you will not find yourself lingering over an activity that has played itself out, nor disappointed to be home early at day’s end. In fact, you’ll either be right on time or, happily, find the fullness of your day has caused you to run a touch late.

4. Simplify. The real purpose of simplification is to allow yourself to experience a day of freedom. Freedom, primarily, from guilt. Big, complicated plans often go awry and, especially at Thanksgiving, all things awry are most unwelcome. By consciously deciding to keep things simple you open up the realm of tripping over unexpected and delightful surprises. Did you plan to be in by six, Chinese takeout in hand? Imagine your delight when, at the Chinese restaurant, you run into an old friend who asks you to share a table. Remember – simple sets the stage for surprising.

5. Reach Out. This is, perhaps, the hardest of the steps to take. It’s also, without a doubt, the most rewarding. This step, however, should be taken only in the context of simplicity expressed in step number four. Don’t agonize over inviting a family of twelve complete strangers to dinner in your tiny apartment. Don’t set the alarm for 4am and then scour the city for homeless people to shelter and feed. (These are both good things – but, they are simply for another time)

Rather, consider the one neighbor, or store clerk, or garbage collector you can greet on Thanksgiving. Can’t think of anyone? Then, go find someone. Look for someone you recognize. Look for the sadness about their eyes, the slowness in their step, the stoop of their shoulders – the telltale signs that tell you they walk in the same shadow of loneliness that darkens your holiday cheer. When you find them, greet them warmly. Two hearts will be warmed as a result of your effort.

…There is no quick fix. Try these five steps to help take the pain out of Thanksgiving. You’ll be glad you did.

Tim Anderson is a freelance writer who has a special interest in medical topics. Visit his blog at

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