Tips for Holiday Coping

girl smiling smallLet’s face it, aside from Valentine’s Day, Christmas is probably the most couples-oriented holiday of the year.

And for those of us already feeling the pinch of living in a partnered-up world, it’s enough to bring on a bad case of the holiday blues. Of course, there are many other contributing factors that make the J-man’s B-day (or Hanukkah for that matter) a breeding ground for depression.

For starters, there’s the cold weather and lack of daylight. In fact, it’s estimated that two million Canadians suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood-altering syndrome brought on by the dark days of winter. Then there’s all the financial stress — not to mention amplified family issues — to contend with.

So just how is a single person expected to ward off an impending festive funk? Well, you could try volunteering. Nothing takes your mind off yourself quite like thinking about someone other than yourself. Believe it or not, there are worse things that can happen to you than spending the holidays without a significant other. Just look around your community.

There are plenty of charities that need as many helping hands as they can get – especially this time of year. You could really make a difference in someone’s life. More importantly, you could meet a totally awesome single volunteer.

Some volunteer options to consider include working at a local food bank sorting and distributing contributions, walking dogs and petting/grooming rabbits and cats at the local animal shelter, joining a street patrol to distribute coffee, soup, blankets and the like to transient people, ringing up your local YMCA/YWCA… the list is endless. And lots of information is available online. Here, then, are six altruistic ways to spend your holiday season.

Habitat for Humanity
www.habitat.org
This is a great hands-on approach to giving back to the community. And what red-blooded single wouldn’t love to meet someone who’s good with his/her hands?

Top tip for singles: Remember it’s not the size of the tool, it’s how you use it.

Covenant House
www.covenanthouse.org
Mentoring street kids who have survived abhorrent living conditions is the best way to put your Me-Me-Me holiday blues in perspective.

Top tip for singles: Keep a look out for progressive-thinking in-house counselors. There’s really nothing hotter than someone who has dedicated their life to helping others.

SPCA
www.spca.com
Nobody likes the thought of a sweet little critter shivering in its kennel, especially over the holidays when other pets get to bat around sparkly ornaments, chew on ribbons and just generally wreak havoc on the holiday decor.

Top tip for singles: Don’t bother putting that “Must Love Dogs” ad out in the personals. You just may meet a fellow canine lover here… but remember: wash your hands between handling animals and giving out your phone number (house rules).

Salvation Army
www.salvationarmyusa.org (in the U.S.) and www.salvationarmy.ca (in Canada)
This is the perfect opportunity to make up for all those times you walked out of a Starbucks carrying a $5 coffee and told the panhandler out front that you didn’t have any spare change. It’s never too late to reverse your karma.

Top tip for singles: Don’t miss this rare chance to people-watch in the middle of a busy shopping hub without looking like a total stalker. As long as you keep ringing that bell, you can scan the area for babes to your heart’s content. Isn’t giving back to your community just the best?

Donate Blood
www.redcross.org (American Red Cross) and www.bloodservices.ca (Canadian Blood Services)

With a serious shortage in both Canada and the U.S., this really is the gift of life.

Top tip for singles: Um… hunky doctors and nurses anyone?

Organize Your Own Toy Drive
It’s easier than you think. Get in touch with charity of your choice. Ask them what kinds of toys they’re looking for. Band together some volunteers. And contact other organizations like your local police department and fire hall (mmm… fireman) to see if they want to partner up with you.

In addition to volunteering your time, there are other ways you can keep your spirits up throughout December. And if you do get down in the dumps, you can always take heart in knowing you’re in good company.

“There are lots of people going through the exact same thing,” says Karen Hirscheimer, a Toronto-based psychotherapist (www.coupletherapy.ca). “And as alone as you may feel, you’re not alone at all. It’s a very, very difficult time for many, many people. But at the end of the day, it’s up to ourselves to make every moment special, including the holidays – whether we’re with someone or not.”

With that in mind, here are Hirscheimer’s four tips to help singletons turn this season into the most festive one yet.

1. Mentally Prepare Yourself
Psyching yourself up is a great starting point. You can honor all your feelings of loneliness and still find time to be celebratory. Don’t be the queen of Yuletide denial.

As Hirscheimer points out, there’s room for both sad and festive feelings. It’s all part of being human. So for example, this December you might want to indulge in affirmations.

For example, say to yourself, “Yeah, it’s going to be tough doing the holiday thing as a solo act. Yeah, I’m going to be surrounded by happy couples, but I can still have a holly jolly Xmas time with friends and family…..

“And so what if my ex is going to spend the holidays under the mistletoe with his new (younger) girlfriend while I spend it obsessively checking my cat’s stool for tinsel. I’m not alone. There are countless people celebrating the holidays without a significant other. And yeah, I’m gonna have to drag my gay best friend to the staff Xmas party, but we’re going to have fun god damn it! And if I go home afterwards and send some regrettable texts before crying myself to sleep, that’s OK too.”

Keep in mind that no two pre-Xmas affirmations are alike, so feel free to reword mine to suit your own particular situation.

2. Maintain Your Physical Health
There’s a tendency to toss all your good eating habits out the window for the month of December. But be warned: coming down from sugar highs is the last thing someone in your fragile state needs. You should also make sure you get enough Zs. Sleep depravation is an open invitation to a heavy heart. You also might want to keep an eye on your alcohol consumption (could lead to an unfortunate office party hook-up). Remember: it’s all about moderation.

3. Treat Yourself Right
Make December a month of self-care. Take time to do the little things you wouldn’t normally do. It could be as simple as giving yourself a cranberry foot-scrub treatment or getting a professional blow dry. You could also buy yourself something sparkly to wear. After all, this is the only time of year you can glam it up without looking like a Vegas showgirl. Interestingly, putting yourself first doesn’t have to be about your physical appearance. You could start a new project. Pick up a new hobby. The point is to invest in yourself. Waiting till January 1st to venture into new territory is so 2007.

4. Volunteer Your Time
Nothing takes your mind of yourself quite like thinking about someone other than yourself (go figure?) Believe it or not, there are worse things that can happen to you than spending the holidays without a significant other. Just look around your community.

There are plenty of charities that need as many helping hands as they can get – especially this time of year. You could really make a difference in someone’s life. More importantly, you could meet a totally hot volunteer.

Some volunteer options to consider include working at a local food bank sorting and distributing contributions, walking dogs and petting/grooming rabbits and cats at the local animal shelter, joining a street patrol to distribute coffee, soup, blankets and the like to transient people, ringing up your local YMCA/YWCA… the list is endless. And lots of information is available online.

5. Throw yourself a party… or two
For some, spending “quality time” with family can be quite spiritually draining. That’s why it’s more important than ever to spend quality time with friends during the holidays. There are several kinds of parties you can throw — be it a December 26/Boxing Day potluck (great way for everyone to get rid of leftovers), non-denominational holiday floor party in your apartment (great way to meet your neighbors) or an intimate martini mixer. See sidebar for party tips.

6. Ace Your Holiday Mixer
Ingrid Edmunds is the headcheese at CyberVision Marketing & Events (www.cvmevents.com), a Vancouver-based company that plans, produces and coordinates just about every kind of social function you can imagine. Ergo, she knows how to throw a party. Here, then, are four of her top tips for hosting an intimate holiday mixer.

7. Mind Your Guest List
Don’t invite your coupled-off friends. They have all season to flaunt their togetherness. That’s why Edmunds suggests getting your single friends to bring an unattached acquaintance of the opposite sex — could be a coworker, someone they met at the gym or that cute barista at their local cafe. Anyone but an ex — no one wants someone else’s sloppy seconds.

8. Pour the Perfect Turkey Martini
You needn’t bother cooking a whole bird with all the fixings. Instead, cook a turkey breast and make some stove-top stuffing. Layer your martini glasses with a foundation of stuffing and then add bite size chunks of turkey and top with cranberry sauce and pre-packaged gravy. Garnish with holly and serve with mini bamboo forks. Eating from the glass makes it easier for your guests to stand around and nibble while mingling.

9. Glam up Those Digs
So you didn’t bother going all out with a tree. You can still put a little effort into decorating your apartment. It will make your guests feel that much more welcome. Keep it two colors though – one that complements your furniture and then either a silver or gold accent. Anything more would be garish.

10. Keep it Bubbly
Single people on the make don’t want a heavy eggnog-based punch that goes straight to their hips. So why not serve a nice sparkling wine or Prosecco and add a touch of blood-red Crème de Cassis for some festive color? This refreshing cocktail is light breezy and flirty.

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By Sarah Rowland

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