The rush is just about over. Department store parking lots have calmed down and the mall frenzy has been downgraded from an endless cacophony of shoppers in panic mode to the lull of last-minute shopping for socks, candles and chocolate. It’s the home stretch to Christmas, and we couldn’t be more eager for it.

Or could we?

Spouse, Second Born and I were recently gifted with tickets to see the live radio play of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you’ve ever watched this Christmas classic, as I have many times since my childhood, you know it’s a sweet, tortured story that will leave you smiling and maybe be a little misty-eyed, even as syrupy as the final scene is. I adore the story, mushiness and all. Personally, almost all my favorite movies are based on the Christmas spirit, and I welcome the tears that seem apropos in the midst of this season of sentiment and awe.

That’s not all that gets to me this time of year. I can’t get through Folger’s outdated “Peter comes home for Christmas” commercial without getting a little emotional – and I don’t even know where Peter had been. Don’t even get me started on Coca-Cola’s “I’d like to teach the world to sing” commercial from the 70s.

There have been years where it takes much less for me to feel overwhelmed and not at all prepared for the holidays. It may come as a surprise to you that someone who tries to find the funny in just about anything might feel a touch of depression during what is supposed to be a joyous season. Over time I’ve come to realize that a significant part of my sensitivity is the lack of daylight as our days get shorter and it feels like we’re always in the dark. There is a name for it, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it’s a real thing.

It might be easy to blame moodiness, overeating or lack of appetite, and a general lack of motivation on the stress and exhaustion of holiday preparations. It may not help that the kids are adding new items to their Christmas wish list every other day, the price of oil and firewood rises in accordance with how many pairs of socks you’ve put on, and you’re responsible for this year’s holiday dessert, which cannot include nuts, dairy or gluten. You may have very legitimate reasons for being off your game. But if that’s not it – if there is more going on than presents and bills and meal planning – cut yourself some slack and get to some sunlight.

Yes, I realize Maine is not known as the sunniest spot on the planet, and my personal habit of eating lunch at my desk is a poor example of soaking up some sunlight. And who wants to stand outside when the temps barely hit double digits? For that very reason, I tend to use Vitamin D supplements during winter months. That usually works for me but I am not a doctor and I don’t play one in this column, so if you’re thinking twice about just how long your own “holiday stress” has lasted, please do consult your physician.

Nobody is happy all the time… and if they are, I’ll have what they’re having. Listen to your own body and pay attention to your state of mind. Even if it’s gluten and nut free, this could and should be an enjoyable time of year.

From my gang to yours, we wish you a holiday season filled with family, love, and enough light to keep you on the sunny side up of another Maine winter.

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