Holiday Guide to Self-Medication


©2014 Michelle Freed

As we officially head into what many of us consider to be Pre-Holiday Crazytown, I have some bad news. You are most likely on the verge of a physical, emotional or mental breakdown.

Holidays can be hazardous to your physical, emotional and mental health. Duh.

Holidays can be hazardous to your physical, emotional and mental health. Duh!

Studies show that brain activity rapidly decreases 5-7 days prior to significant family gatherings, due to stress, overwhelming to-do lists and relatives who don’t know how to look anything up on the Internet. This means that your chances of contracting a cold or flu (and a diagnosable mental disorder) more than triple.*

Personally, I’ve already shown signs of logic and memory deterioration (example: I stored the glue gun in the oven and trimmed the refrigerator with tinsel). As an added bonus, this morning I discovered a box of nails hanging out with sandpaper and medieval torture implements in my esophagus. It’s not something I like to brag about.

The good news is that there are lots of ready-to-purchase, over-the-counter remedies for almost all pre-holiday ailments. It’s just a matter of knowing which ones to use at what time, which is why I’m here to help (hint: you might want to destroy your browsing history after reading this, should authorities or technologically savvy 10-year-olds get involved in the crime scene).


The minute you feel congested nasal passages, earthquake-like headaches, or a “tickle” in the throat (and by that, I mean the second you want to rip your neck off and launch it into orbit), you have plenty of options.

coldCough syrup. This is the perfect solution if you’ve always wanted to consume shots of aftershave. Although cough syrup has the delightful consistency of tar, once it takes effect, you’ll sink into the kind of mindless slumber that no family feud or shattered dinnerware can penetrate.

Cough syrup in pill form. This is the best option for those who need relief but don’t necessarily enjoy the sensation of drinking tar-like aftershave (see above). The only drawback is that they come in what I like to call enema-size capsules. You must have a doctor (or a cousin who watches medical-themed reality shows) on standby should you face the disappointing outcome of choking to death.

Very expensive pills. This line of medication comes with the added titles of DM, PE, XL or RIP. They cost more, and promise majestic symptom relief and a knighting from the Queen of England. Don’t believe it. You’ll just sit around expecting miracles and then go back to the store to purchase generic versions of the first two items on the list.

Home remedies. Ginger root, garlic, honey and lemon juice are just some of the most often touted solutions from your well-intentioned, freakishly healthy friends who think yoga is a form of recreation. Sure, try out the recipes – they’ll most likely require multiple excursions to health food stores across county lines and the sacrifice of wild animals, but be warned: by the time you collect and prepare the ingredients, your condition will have worsened significantly. Unfortunately, when you finally seek immediate medical attention, it will undoubtedly be after hours or the weekend.



There will be moments during the holidays when you will question your mental and/or emotional stability. Rest assured, this is normal. Not even Ghandi, himself, could have handled modern get-togethers, shrouded with impossible expectations and extraordinary expense. Just breathe deeply and consider the following:

crazySleep. Unfortunately, authorities consider the common state of exhaustion as the gateway condition to family dysfunction. Don’t be a martyr (i.e., “I stayed up all night to wrap my color-coordinated packages and bake 20 batches of organic cookies from scratch.”) The truth is that no one really cares about the little details except you. Get over yourself and go get some sleep!

Alcohol. We all start out with the best of intentions, don’t we? We imagine postcard-perfect afternoons with our family members creating Martha-Stewart-worthy gingerbread houses and flawless holiday parties. But when reality sets in, our patience level disappears and before you know it, someone is screaming and throwing frosting on the ceiling. The best solution is alcohol. Be subtle and start early. Stash your beverage of choice somewhere unexpected … like the linen closet. This way, no overbearing mother-in-law can monitor your consumption, and you’ll soon be a happy host with nothing but smiles and good cheer.

Make excuses. Temporary insanity is what happens when Uncle Jerry brings up politics or Aunt Sherrie insists on presenting the slide show from her latest mission trip abroad – on the flat screen and right before dinner. The only solution for evading scandal and launching bloodline wars is to leave. Good excuses include: “forgotten” recipe ingredients; last-minute gift purchases; sick friends; stranded friends at the airport, and; urgent trips to the drugstore (see Cough Syrup, above).

Give up. If you find yourself locked in the master bathroom (or basement), staring at your splotchy, tear-stained face in the mirror and mumbling something about your childhood, it’s just too late – the damage has been done. Schedule an appointment with your therapist, take cold medicine and drink your beverage of choice (see Alcohol, above), and succumb to the inevitable. Call a friend who is just as crazy as you are, laugh at yourselves, make fun of your family members and join the club. You might get a free t-shirt.

*Source: although I have not exactly SEEN research that reflects this statistic, personal experience and interviews with complete strangers prove it to be so.

What do you think? I’d love to hear about your own personal solutions to physical, mental or emotional ailments related to the holidays. And you get bonus points if you share your personal holiday traumas – it’ll make us all feel better about ourselves! Go ahead – leave your comments below.


One thought on “Holiday Guide to Self-Medication

  1. Michele, The other remedy might be to read something written by YOU! Gawd … I’m still laughing and since I’m the only one in the room doing so, the others are beginning to talk intervention.
    Great and timely column!

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