How Giving Can Soothe the Holiday Doldrums

A recent Saturday Night Live skit was so on the money that I made people laugh just telling them about it.

It was centered on a song by Adele called “Someone Like You” and, as anyone who’s heard the wrenching ballad knows, it can cut right through your heart on the wrong day. SNL brilliantly crafted a skit where first one woman, then two, then a group of people sat around listening to it, crying and eating ice cream.

Just classic in its truth. Pain as instant connector.

Since we’re in the thick of a time of year that can be filled with emotional landmines, it got me thinking about what we can do for ourselves and others when confronted with them. The more people I talk to, the more I hear stories of folks trying to deal in one way or another with a fraught moment, an intense day or doldrums that last the entire holiday season.

One approach is that we can all tune into the Lifetime channel with a box of tissues and hit the coffee Heath Bar crunch ice cream, but that gets old fast. So I’m proposing a transition from that--let’s call it phase one--into something more radical for phase two: giving.

If you’re so inclined, that could be writing a check to an organization you’re passionate about, but really I’m talking about a different kind of giving. By all means, help the needy, the suffering, the disenfranchised. So much good can come of that. But there’s a much more overlooked group you can help more frequently – people already in your life who might be struggling. Some might be obvious, but so many are also hiding how low they feel.

I’m advocating giving of yourself, even at a low point, to these others in a win-win scenario. Way too often we underestimate the transformative effect of this simple act, on them and on us.

What can you do? Specifically?

  • Pick up the phone and draw a person out if you sense they could use an outlet and/or a dose of compassion. That is an incomparable gift to someone who feels like she needs to talk but doesn’t want to be a downer and disrupt others’ perceived holiday Zen. (While I’m advocating this for working through your own struggles in the process, keep in mind if you’re truly feeling joyful no one will be able to bring you down, so how about bringing that energy to a conversation that can uplift another? Surely you’ve been on the other side at one point or another.)
  • When you send a holiday card, write something extra that is specific to that person. Imagine how it feels to be on the receiving end of someone’s kind words and know that is no small thing. Tell her how much she means to you or remind him of a memorable time you enjoyed with him over the course of the year. Maybe your heartfelt message arrives in just the moment when someone has been feeling particularly touched by loss or disappointment.
  • If your budget allows, send along or drop off a trinket that lets that person know you thought about him even in the bustle of shopping, decorating and entertaining. I found some tree ornaments that spell out ‘Love’ and I’m sending them to a few people, spreading the love, so to speak. I like to picture how lit up they’ll be upon receiving the unexpected surprise.
  • Offer to watch a child so an overwhelmed parent can spend a few unfettered hours escaping and recharging his or her batteries. That ability to decompress can mean the world to someone who just needs a metaphorical deep breath. Who cares if they use the time to hit a yoga class, grab a latte with a friend or drive around listening to Christmas music, just so long as they get away for a bit.
  • Invite the person over for a glass of wine, a meal or a tree trimming evening. Maybe long stretches of solitude are making them antsy and they would welcome being a part of your warm and festive tradition. If you extend the offer and the answer is no, don’t take it personally. Let some time pass and try again if it feels right. Their mood may have shifted and they could be too embarrassed to say how appealing it sounds now.

Just writing this is spurring me on to reach out to more people in my life. You?

On the other hand, those Adele lyrics are available as a ringtone and you could cry yourself senseless every time the phone rings.

Giving sounds like the healthier option.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to