For many of us, the holidays bring crazy-making expectations. We’re bombarded with media images encouraging us to buy stuff (with our credit cards, of course), go to parties and events (or be alone, which may feel even worse) and – above all – to put on a happy face and smile all through it. This is a sure set-up for depression, shattered expectations and disappointment.
Whether you are an Atheist or you celebrate Christian, Pagan, Jewish, Islamic, African-American or other holidays at this time of year: this year, you can do it differently. Here’s how:
Be Good with your Boundaries
This is not a time to be around hostile/unpleasant/belligerent family members. If you can, explain to them that you need to take really good care of yourself, so you won’t be traveling this year. Don’t feel guilty (especially all you codependent folks): no one will take care of you unless you do. If your family is too dysfunctional to even care about your boundaries, make up a good excuse not to spend the holidays with them and simply repeat it over-and-over until they stop pressuring you.
Holiday Drinking and Drugging
Some people try to avoid feeling bad by getting so wasted they don’t feel anything. Obviously, this doesn’t work. Don’t drink or drug yourself into oblivion. It only gives you a temporary escape anyway. You want a nice, healthy escape? Go out dancing: work your body hard and come home covered with sweat, wearing a smile.
Keep your Body Happy
This year, don’t worry about holiday calories; burn them off with movement and exercise, like free weights and aerobics. When shopping, park your car somewhere central and walk to stores and restaurants. Go for hikes. Dive in a pool and swim. Hop on your bicycle and go for a ride. Take a yoga or pilates class. Say no to stressed-out shopping malls. Instead, spend an afternoon walking peacefully through calm, beautiful scenery.
Maybe Jesus and his Friends aren’t your Cup of Tea
Does organized religion turn you off? Are you tempted to kick over every nativity scene you see? This year, do it differently: find a spiritual component of the season that means something to you. For example, I’m not much into church-going, but I feel close to God when I go hiking in the woods. Find something that makes you feel peaceful.
Mental Health; not Martha Stewart
Do you aspire to have a Martha Stewart Holiday? Every gift perfectly chosen, wrapped and paired with the only card in the County (handmade and overpriced) that’s perfect for that special someone? This year, do less. Doing too much makes it hard to enjoy anything. Give yourself some alone time to unwind. If you’re partnered, schedule more “us time” than usual. If you have a beloved pet, definitely spend more time with them (for your well-being and theirs).
If your partner/friend/parent died at this time of year, this may be your first holiday without them.
This year, get support from those who love you. Be real; don’t fake it. Faking it is crazy-making. You may want to tell people that this is a hard time for you. Let them know, so they can understand and respect your emotions. I struggle with this one myself: this is my first holiday season without my little sister, who recently died after two years of being on Hospice care.
A guaranteed way to feel bad is to compare yourself, your gifts and your family with what other people do, have and give. Many of us imagine everyone else is having more fun than we are. You have no idea how happy or miserable anyone else is. Stop trying to keep up with (or surpass) other people: by doing so, you’ll miss what could actually make you happy. Who cares what other people do? Instead, make a list of things you’d like to do – alone or with friends – and do them. In essence, be your own Santa Claus.
This is a challenging time of year for everyone. This year, do it differently: take good care of yourself and those you love.