4 Helpful Tips for When Your Holiday Doesn’t Look Like A Hallmark Commercial

It can feel like we are all mandated to catch the Holiday Spirit from Thanksgiving through the New Year. But, life doesn’t always work that way, does it? Even if the halls are being decked with boughs of holly, life is still happening and not everyone finds themselves filled with cheer during the holiday season. It’s not uncommon for the season to bring up feelings of loneliness, anxiety and memories of lost loved ones among other painful emotions. If the holidays are going to be difficult for you, I hope these 4 tips will help you navigate the season in a way that is healthy and authentic for you.

1. Be Honest

Be honest with yourself and the people close to you about how you’re feeling. You don’t have to be in a good mood for two and a half months just because it’s the holiday season. Give yourself permission to have fun when it feels right and to take a pass on activities that don’t sound good to you. But, fight the urge to isolate yourself. Be honest about what you need from your support system. Even the most well-intentioned friends and family members can’t read your mind. Chances are they would jump at the chance to host you for the holidays, or would be glad to carve out some extra time for you during the busy holiday season—but they won’t know what you need unless you tell them.

2. Set Boundaries

I don’t know about you, but when I go home I pretty much immediately regress to my 15 year old self when I walk in the door. In my case, this has its pros and cons (home cooked meals= pro; being told when I need to wear a coat =con). If going “home” sounds about as pleasant as a root canal to you, you don’t have to do it the way you’ve always done it or the way other people think you should do it. Maybe it’s time to reassess how you approach the holidays. Just because you’ve always stayed with mom and dad for a week, doesn’t mean you have to do that this year. Or, if you feel like you’re expected to be housebound the entire time you’re visiting family, start creating opportunities to get out of the house. Go on a walk. Go to a coffee shop to call some friends or read a book. If you’re used to having your own space and your own schedule, it can feel claustrophobic to be with other people 24/7. It’s okay to set some boundaries around your personal time and space.

3. Throw tradition out the window (or, gently place it to the side right now)

Sometimes we feel like we have to keep participating in traditions just because we’ve always done it that way. There is certainly a place for tradition, but you don’t have to force yourself to participate in a tradition if it is going to be too uncomfortable or painful for you. Maybe you want to take a trip to the beach this year instead of flying to see Aunt Sally in Des Moines. Or, maybe you just want to stay home and cuddle up with your pup and Netflix. A friend of mine goes to the same coffee shop by herself every Thanksgiving morning. She finds camaraderie with the other patrons and it has become a tradition that she looks forward to every year. It’s okay to think outside of the box. Your plans don’t have to fit the mold of a Hallmark commercial to be fulfilling.

4. Give Back

I know it’s cliché, but it truly is better to give than to receive. Focusing on helping and serving others has a magical (and even chemical!) effect on our emotional state. Search for opportunities to lend a hand in your community. And, while it may seem counter-intuitive at first, think about the people (or even the pets) you love and make an effort to do something special for them this season. It may sound cheesy, but you will attract the energy you put out there. Spend some time focusing on how you can make someone else’s holiday a little better and I guarantee that yours will be better, too.


About the Author

Amanda McPherson’s passion is empowering women to follow their dreams and to love themselves just as they are. She received her Masters in Counseling at St. Edward’s University in 2012 and is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern under the supervision of Kat Elrod, LPC-S. Visit her counseling website & her blog!

Plus read her recently published article in Elephant Journal here.