Dear Uncle Mat

Special holiday-blues edition

The most common reasons I hear people give for hating the holidays are loneliness and financial troubles. If your family and friends magnify rather than remediate these feelings, there is something wrong. If you feel depressed or alienated by the holiday season, the best thing to do is to address your emotions head on rather than try to avoid them, so this week I am discussing a few coping mechanisms as well as resources for dealing with the winter blues.

In my youth I would have told you to just start drinking at Halloween and sober up around Valentine’s Day — just in time to realize the guy you are enjoying a cliché dinner for two with is not your soul mate, but more of an alcohol-poisoning-induced hallucination. A few unfortunate practical tests have proven this theory is not the best way to weather the holidays.

In my relatively sobered-up adulthood, when I am not feeling the tickle of mistletoe in by bum, I just bake pies and give them to people. I especially like to give them to people on diets. I know this sounds mean, but it’s just one pie, not a membership in the cake-of-the-month club. I know that I am going to sound like a hippie nun teaching Montessori school, but sharing makes everyone feel good. Now you try it. Maybe volunteer at the food bank or at the church or temple. Food and gift drives are in full swing now, and animal-rescue agencies are also often in need of help.

Follow my segue, and you might get yourself a pet. If you don’t have the time for a dog, then maybe a nice cat. Animals are proven to ease depression and anxiety in people. They offer unconditional love without the looming threat of puberty and college tuition. I have started to sing Christmas songs to my dog when we take walks. People think I am insane, but I feel all right, and that’s what counts here.

You should pamper and treat yourself during rough times as well. Get a weekly pedicure or a massage or a new haircut. If finances are tight, avoid impulse shopping. Plan ahead and make a budget for these personal bonuses.

All tricks aside, you might need to get a little help. I spend a fair amount of my time in this column preaching about the benefits of therapy. This time will be no different, but I want to share some tips and resources as well. Remember that this will be a very busy time of year for doctors, psychiatrists, and counselors. If you do not already have a therapist, you may have to wait a few weeks for intake as a new patient or client, so consider starting the search now.

If you have insurance, your doctor should have some referrals available for you. This won’t guarantee the right person for you, but it’s easier than picking one out of the phone book, and a referral from your doctor might help you get in the door sooner. Also check your insurance policy; a referral may be required for your benefits to apply.

If you don’t have a doctor, you could try your church or temple if you are religious. Church leaders often offer some limited counseling services and will most likely have referrals for counselors within the congregation.

If you don’t have insurance, you will want to find a therapist with a sliding-scale fee to meet your income. You might also see if you qualify for the county Carelink program, which provides medical care for individuals and families below a certain income level through the University Health System. You can find more information at or contact them directly at (210) 358-3350 or (800) 844-6202.

You can search for therapists and just about any other community resource (taxes to childcare) on the United Way website at They also offer brief telephone counseling for people in crisis and referrals through their helpline; just dial 211. One more helpful resource in San Antonio is the Family Service Association (and no you don’t have to have a family), or call (210) 299-2400.  

In review, drink in moderation, do good, get a pet, treat yourself to something nice (even if it’s free), and if you know what is coming down the emotional chimney this year, pick a therapist now, not after you threaten to kill yourself at Thanksgiving dinner. Seriously. 

Much love and a white Christmas (wouldn’t that be cool!),

Your Uncle Mat

Uncle Mat answers questions about relationships, sex, pets, and art. Email him at
[email protected],, or check out the Dear Uncle Mat Page on Facebook. Your true identity is safe with him.

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