From what I’m seeing and hearing, “The Holidays” this year are an attempt to return to some degree of normalcy. Last year, most of us were still in (COVID) shock. As a result, we celebrated a severely low-key Christmas/Hanukkah/ Kwanzaa/New Year’s Eve. This year, it seems like all bets are off. There are lots of parties and activities. Maybe we’re all just so tired of COVID that we want to have fun again. And, once again, “The Holidays” bring up unrealistic expectations for many of us. We compare ourselves, our gifts and our celebrations with what we think other people experience. We buy into an idealized “Disneyland” version of The Holidays: where everyone’s always happy and the perfect gifts magically materialize under the tree.
As a result, many of us imagine everyone else is having a lot more fun than we are. But honestly, you have no idea how happy or miserable anyone else is behind their Facebook/Instagram/TikTok façade. So why not make it your goal to make this your best holiday ever? Consider these suggestions:
Make Peace with COVID.
Omicron. Unvaccinated people. Masks. Social Distancing. There’s no escaping this stuff. And, yes, my friend, people are still dying of COVID. Everyone has their own acceptable level of risk (“ALOR”). For more on that, please see LGBTQ San Diego County News’s 6/4/2020 issue (https://lgbtqsd.news/alor-acceptable-levels-of-risk/). So, for The Holidays this year, get clear on your ALOR, talk about it with your nearest and dearest and then decide how you want to celebrate.
You are not Martha Stewart.
A big source of seasonal stress is trying to have a Martha Stewart Holiday: every gift perfectly chosen, wrapped and paired with the only card in San Diego County that’s perfect for that special someone. My advice: Do less. Enjoy more. Doing too much creates stress and worry, which makes it hard to enjoy anything. Give yourself some alone time to unwind from events, shopping, gift-wrapping, etc. If you are partnered, schedule more “couple time” than usual: help each other relax and chill out.
Go for a walk or a jog or a hike. Hit the gym, skate, surf, dance or do whatever makes your body happy. Whatever you do, try to do it outside. Not only is it COVID-safe, but it’s also great for your mind and body.
Just say “No.”
Even if you feel safe being indoors with other people, do you actually enjoy shopping, malls and crowds? And don’t let yourself get talked into doing stuff you don’t want to. Spend time with people you love in situations where you’re comfortable. If you’re invited to an event and don’t want to go, graciously say, “Thanks, but I have other plans.” No one needs to know that your other plans involve staying home and watching Netflix.
Moderate your alcohol/recreational drugs
This time of year may bring up unpleasant emotions, but drinking/drugging them away only gives you a temporary escape. Instead, try some healthier options, like spending time with people you enjoy doing things that make you feel good.
Beware of the “Hangover” of anonymous sex.
Many people try having lots of anonymous hook-ups to avoid feeling sad or lonely. Too bad it doesn’t work. If you’re having great sex with someone you love, good for you! If not, focus on things in your life that please you. Don’t use sex to numb yourself out: you’ll feel even worse after he/she leaves.
Think spiritual, not religious.
It’s great if the religious aspects of this time of year are meaningful to you. If they’re not, does this mean that you’re left with consumerism as your god? You don’t need organized religion to enjoy spiritual/peaceful/calming activities: like meditation, walking in nature, creating a “vision” board of how you’d like your 2022 to be, or just sitting quietly and reading an inspiring book. Whether Jesus and the gang are your thing or not, find something centering, grounding and inspiring for yourself.
Many people try to “shop” and “party” their COVID fears away. Instead, you could focus on giving to others, and I don’t mean beautifully wrapped gifts. Consider giving your time and energy to others, and bypass the ubiquitous consumer-based messages.
That Codependent Thing.
Do you do the Codependent thing at this time of year – put yourself last and everyone else first? This is a sure way to make sure your Holidays are miserable and you end up resentful and pissed off. Try something different this year: up your self-care and put yourself first.
Redefine what a “Gift” Is.
Regardless of the particular holiday(s) you celebrate, give yourself meaningful gifts; they can be free or inexpensive. You don’t need a box from Tiffany’s or Nordstrom to get a great gift: you could give yourself the gift of a day of peace, or a hike in some beautiful place, or a coffee break (and pastry) at a local coffee shop. A great gift makes you feel good, and doesn’t come with a huge VISA bill in January.
Regardless of what holiday(s) you celebrate, try the above ideas and make this your best holiday ever.