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Sex, Baths and Joy Division

Coping with post-holiday depression

Copyright 1995 by Lynna Landstreet. This column originally appeared in Xtra magazine. Published by Pink Triangle Press, 491 Church Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4Y 2C6.

ccording to my calculations, this column should hit the streets just in time for the post-holiday depression period. Two issues ago, I wrote about how to avoid getting overly stressed out by the season. But since even my capacity for blind optimism has limits, I thought perhaps I ought to devote this issue's column to what to do now that you've ignored my advice and gotten all stressed and depressed anyway.

So, here's my list of suggested methods for coping with depression. As before, some are serious and some not so, and I take no responsibility for the consequences of the latter...

  1. Hang out with people more miserable than you are. Retail workers are a good bet. Most of them have just finished a month of working 10 or 12 hour days of non-stop hell with no lunch breaks, no overtime pay, and virtually no time off for Christmas. One look at their shaking hands, bloodshot eyes and rapidly graying hair will make you feel much better by comparison. Note: if you are a retail worker, this tactic will probably not help.

  2. Haagen-Dazs. The dairy industry's answer to Prozac. Or, if you prefer local to corporate, Greg's Ice Cream at Bloor & Bedford offers amazing homemade ice cream in a bizarre variety of flavours from Mango to Stout.

  3. Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. Sure, it's a cliché, but doing nice things for total strangers can genuinely make you feel good, or so I've found. Then again, if that seems too saccharine for you, you could always try the opposite approach and do something really rotten, preferably to someone who richly deserves it.

  4. Baths. Long ones. Preferably with some kind of really decadent, nice-smelling bath stuff added. This doesn't have to be expensive -- you can make your own bath salts with Epsom salts, food colouring and your basic cheap perfume oil. The ever-popular dyke standard, Patchouli, works well for this, but I'm partial to Amber myself...

  5. To borrow a saying from the Yippies of my parents' era, be a thumbtack in the heel of fascism. Minor acts of resistance against an oppressive social order can be very uplifting. Look, I said minor, OK? Now put that TNT down and get away from Queen's Park!

  6. Pets. Cuddling something warm and furry (get your mind out of the gutter, people, I didn't mean that!) is an excellent depression cure. If you don't have a pet, borrow one. Or check out Cawthra Park for a wide variety of four-footed stress relievers, which, if you can succeed in winning the owners' confidence, you may be allowed to pet. True, gaining admission to their fraternity is difficult without a dog of your own, but you can always pretend you have one at home. Better yet, tell them you're visiting from somewhere exotic, like Vancouver. Be sure and complain about the weather to make it sound authentic.

  7. Even better than the dogs in Cawthra park are the birds, which can sometimes be convinced to eat out of your hand. Try tossing little pieces of bread or sunflower seeds to them, then dropping the pieces gradually nearer and nearer to you, then slowly -- very slowly -- hold out your hand with a little beak-sized piece of food in it. It may take a few tries, but usually one of them will be brave enough to take it, especially in the winter when food is comparatively scarce.

  8. Depressing music. This may seem counter-productive, but it can in fact work quite well. There's nothing like listening to some nice, uplifting Leonard Cohen, Joy Division or Coil to make you feel like someone else has it worse than you.

  9. Non-depressing music. Some people go for soothing and melodic, but I find what one friend of mine calls "scream-along" songs most effective. Anything fast and loud will do. Crank up the volume loud enough to drown out your attempts at harmony, and let loose. The friend who coined that term swears by Hole's Live Through This, but I'm still partial to Sonic Youth's Goo, even though it's several years old. Machines of Loving Grace and Pop Will Eat Itself are good picks, too.

  10. Sex. This is a good cure for depression by itself, but it works even better in combination with some of the above methods, particularly numbers 2 and 4. However, attempting to combine it with 6 or 7 could lead to undesirable consequences, such as visits from the Humane Society and having intimate parts of your body pecked into little pieces.

There. Cheaper than therapy and less permanent than suicide. Don't you feel better now?


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