Mental Health Monday: Fighting the Holiday Blues with Music, Art, Food, Friends and Writing

When I sat down at my computer this morning, I had some ideas for my Mental Health Monday post, but not a clear direction. So, I cruised Facebook for a few minutes before getting started. That’s when I read my friend Tim Stanek’s status:

“Peaceful day of music, art, food, and friends. Got some writing done. On to the next big adventure!”

Music, art, food and friends. Oh, and writing. What a great prescription for a healthy soul, mind, body and spirit. And one we should keep in mind with the holidays coming up.

I have several friends who just about come undone every year preparing for Christmas. And I’m sure they’re not alone. Psychiatrist Michelle Magid describes what she calls the “holiday blues,” and the 4 ways people tend to get depressed during the holidays:

  1. The first is those who are stressed and overwhelmed because they’re stretching themselves too thin. “These are the people that you know have a lot of shopping to do, cooking, travel, house guests, family reunions, office parties, holiday greeting cards, it’s just too much on your plate.
  2. People grieving a loss during the holidays. The holidays are a time to spend with family and that gets people thinking about loved ones who’ve passed away or who aren’t present at family gatherings.
  3. Seasonal affective patients. These are people that tend to get more down during the winter time and they suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
  4. The final type of patient she sees is those who are clinically depressed.

Do you get the holiday blues? The Mayo Clinic has some good tips for coping during the season. For those so inclined, here’s a good piece from them on Spirituality and Stress Relief. But if you’re looking for a simpler solution, just keep Tim Stanek’s words in mind: music, art, food, friends and writing. (You can substitute something other than writing, if you don’t write. Like knitting, or painting, or even simple activities like addressing Christmas cards or wrapping gifts, so long as you don’t approach those last two activities as one more thing “to do.”)

Rice Drewry, Bryan Hayes, John Dillard and David Twombly at Farmhouse Studios CD release party

Saturday night I went to a CD release party with my friend, David Twombly, and his wife Cindy Fong. David is a musician, and the party was a celebration of “Live,” a CD he recorded at Farmhouse Studios in Moscow, Tennessee, with three other musicians. The four of them played in the round and the guests brought food and drink for a potluck.

We arrived at the farm at dusk, just in time to see the post-sunset beauty of the house, the studio, the lake, and the trees. And later, as we huddled around an outdoor fire, we breathed in the early fall air and gazed at stars so much brighter than they appear back under our city lights. The music fed my soul. So did the food. And the friends—old and new—I shared the evening with.


Just before singing one of his songs that night, Rice Drewry talked about how the folks in Texas love house shows and participate in live music on a regular basis. It’s just part of their culture. His words reminded me how much we need this to be part of our lives. And not just live music, but live theater, art shows, poetry readings, author events at local bookstores. We have become a people who spend too much time alone in our houses, sitting like zombies in front of our computers and televisions.

So, this holiday season, I plan to be in touch with things that are ALIVE. I’m taking my nine-year-old Goddaughter to see “Annie” at Playhouse on the Square. I hope to make it to a couple more live music gigs, Like Bryan Hayes’ (owner of Farmhouse Studios) show at the P&H on December 15. I will seek out art shows. And I will continue to write. Oh, and a big thing that’s not on the list today is doing for others. But I think that one needs a post all for itself—maybe next Monday, we’ll see.

Today I’m headed down to Jackson (Mississippi) to visit my mother in the nursing home this afternoon. And then to join Kristen Iversen for her book signing at Lemuria Books. We’ll go to dinner afterwards with some of our friends who have a terrific book club down there. So, all in one day I’ll be doing something for others, and enjoying art (Kristen is a terrific speaker, too,) food, and friends. Hmmm, what about music? Oh, yes, I’ll listen to my new CDs from Farmhouse Studios on the drive.

What are your plans for the holidays? I hope you include music, art, food and friends.

2 thoughts on “Mental Health Monday: Fighting the Holiday Blues with Music, Art, Food, Friends and Writing”

  1. Thank you!!!!! I love this post. And I love seeing my smiling family on your blog! It’s quite a trip being in another country on the other side of the world that doesn’t even celebrate Christmas! Frankly, I think the area I live in couldn’t care less about “getting in the holiday spirit” and after last week, I know that it’s because they have bigger fish to fry! So the holidays have definitely taken on a new perspective for me, especially with the Operation happening in the wake of American Thanksgiving. All that I know right now is that I am truly thankful for my life and everything I have, and I think that’s all that really matters. But of course, art and music and food and friends are all contributing factors to that joy 🙂

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