Stores and media offer a picture of excitement and joy while memories of holidays or gatherings past may fill you with nostalgia…or dread. Yes, dread. Life is more complicated than a Hallmark movie. It can include family conflicts, the loss of someone dear, or negotiating new family configurations. Sickness doesn’t pause for holidays; we get busier just when we would like to take time off.
The holidays can be lovely and they can be stressful. Here are some suggestions to cope or maybe prevent some holiday stress:
- Keep it simple. Consider what is most important, most enjoyable to you and let go of what is not. There is such a thing as too much.
- Plan ahead. What do you want and have time to do? Then build in time for the unexpected. If you will be without extended family, be creative in how you can enjoy your day. Reaching out to others via phone, notes, or a visit to a shut-in can bridge the loneliness and often returns love as well.
- Practice gratitude. Make a list of the people who touched your life, milestones you have attained, and the big and little reminders that life is good and you are loved.
- Live within your means. Simple gifts of time together, a potluck meal, free community events, and volunteering connect us to others and expand our awareness of the people around us. And the stories live on!
- Laugh and shrug things off. Some of the best memories are of things that didn’t go as planned.
- Practice self-compassion. If you are missing someone or something this year, accept that this can be a sad or tender time.
- Grieve. Be gentle with yourself. Your sadness is about love and connection—important qualities to honor.
Life is not all sunshine and rainbows; why should we expect the holidays to be? There will be a lot of positive and warm memories made, but there will also be some not-so-great moments, and maybe some really bad moments. You are not alone! Try not to let the negative moments ruin the holidays for you. Focus on the positive, take breaks when you need them, and look forward to starting fresh in the new year.