I believe in nothing so much as I believe in semi-aggressive mood management and straight-up aggressive mood maintenance—i.e. bitch don't even think about killing my vibe, i.e. okay sometimes those vibes are already dead because of a grotesque meeting of your personal brain chemistry with the season of garish forced merriment and sunset at 4:21 p.m. No matter how sweet your disposition, 'tis undoubtedly the season for looking at expensive fake sun-lamps on Amazon, and trust: no one here will fault you if you've been looking out the windows at the darkening outdoors and whispering "The world is a vampire" to a midday snack that's put a serious dent in the holiday budget you should have made four weeks ago but it's too late, baby, now it's too late.
With the obvious caveat here that I am not making an expensive fake sun-lamp ("making light") out of the type of mental imbalance that cannot be "gifted" anything but therapy, prescription medication, and a significantly easier life to contain it—let us acknowledge that the holidays are an important time to invest in some private, easeful self-chill. Here are some suggestions, straight from the heart of someone who will do pretty much anything to avoid the bite of discontent.
A night of asserting your own creativity and competence through luxurious yet methodical means. I'm thinking a fancy cookbook (by that I mean: a cookbook), the fancy ingredients to make one fancy thing, and a fancy bottle of wine to drink while you make it. There are unlimited options for you: you could do a Martha guy ($31.54), a Gabrielle Hamilton guy ($27), a Tex-Mex guy ($21) or a French guy ($25) or an Italian guy ($14) or a Plenty Veggie guy ($21) or a baked-goods-only guy ($23).
After you are done showering yourself in basic competence and salt/sugar/fat/gluten, you will feel both accomplished and full and probably drunk enough to sleep for 14 satisfied hours, which is exactly the ticket.
If you don't like cooking, consider buying yourself a few tabs of acid and an enormous paint-by-numbers set. You will become one of these big cats by the end of the journey (Home Depot, $19). Which one of the big cats? That's up to you. It's always up to you.
Another good option, not to sound like a big old dickhole, is a volunteer stint. I mean, you're probably busy, you've probably forgotten how much volunteering can unlock your wound-up brain. Do you like pets? Do you miss your grandma? Do you feel guilty about throwing out all your leftovers? Are you worried about a friend who is sick? Do you simply want to be freed from the prison of caring almost entirely about your own well-being? Consider wrenching yourself out of your head-hole into a space of newness, discomfort and good will. Volunteering is free, and it will actually deepen your sadness in a way that often feels transformative while also producing a spark of the true happiness that can only come out of starting to feel fulfilled.
(It is also the season of protest, and protests of course are quite an opportunity to get shoulder-to-shoulder with a bunch of people who (1) also think the world is shit but are (2) still rocking.)
If you don't have time, you can always throw in ya money. Buy some Meals-On-Wheels, relocate a dog from a kill shelter to a chill shelter, send some kids to the Nutcracker, find your local youth community center and get them some supplies.
Also, hey there:
• A Chipotle burrito ($9)
• A vibrator upgrade (varies)
• This floral silk Jenny Packham robe that's 50% off and still ridiculously expensive (Shopbop, $745)
• Some type of intimate apparel that will either prompt renewed energy out of you or out of whoever you are having sex with, or prompt you to find the energy to find someone to bang (Journelle, $130)
• Related to the former, the new D'Angelo album, Black Messiah (iTunes, $10)
• A prayer candle featuring the inspirational figure of your choice (Etsy, varies)
• A subscription to a Cheese of the Month Club (Zingerman's, $200).
To be honest, I didn't even realize that I was making an ingredient list for my ideal night in. It is only through this sort of bloggable self-expression that I ever come to my personal truth.
Now the big guns. If you're experiencing a true Mood Emergency and you can feasibly take some time away from your hidebound obligations, consider buying yourself a plane ticket to somewhere sunny and warm. Does this sound extravagant? It's not, necessarily. Use the all-month option on Skyscanner and you'll find an abundance of under-$300 four-to-ten day tickets in December and January to Mexico ($167), Puerto Rico ($163), Jamaica ($192), Costa Rica ($202), the Virgin Islands ($231), and Trinidad and Tobago ($239).
Oh god, doesn't that sound amazing? I am a social animal and I know no greater happiness than solo travel: you will quiet down on the plane there, you will be fully in control of yourself, with no one to worry about and no heart but your melancholy own to please. Once you get to the tropics, you can Airbnb yourself a gorgeous little room for less than the cost of dinner for two.
And now you're there, you're alone, you can do whatever you want. So what do you want to do? Watch GoodBurger? No, just me? You wanna watch something. Netflix, $0. Want to read a book that will burn your soul out? My perennially recommended reading is Claire Vaye Watkins' Battleborn ($11.71), but if you're more in the mood for comfort + pulp, I recommend Sarah Waters' new historical novel The Paying Guests ($17.37). Wanna pour yourself a drink and stare at the ocean? Good news, the view is always free.
In this scenario, of course, you are wearing something awesome, like a non-sexy satin pajama set (Nordstrom, $62) or a Baywatch-style one-piece (Nasty Gal, $78). You look great, you feel great. You're here to do you.
Puppy via Shutterstock/Riri via Instagram. Top image: "The Nightmare" by Henry Fuseli, 1781.