Here’s the truth: The holidays have felt hard for me for as long as I can remember. As an only child of divorce, I always felt like everyone was gathering together in warm, cozy houses, drinking hot apple cider, and being merry without me. Cue the violins!
Even though I have my own family and traditions now, I find that every year, as soon as December rolls around, I feel a wave of melancholy and an inexplicable feeling of deep loneliness. As I write this, I am in isolation after getting a breakthrough case of Covid-19 from a friend. I’m feeling incredibly thankful that I was able to get a booster so my symptoms are mild, but the last few days have been a whirlwind of various disappointments and cancelled parties and plans, including our beloved annual latke party.
The holidays can be a time of joy and celebration but also a time of heightened pressures, unrealistic expectations, and all sorts of emotional and personal triggers. So, here are my holiday survival tips for anyone else out there who finds themselves feeling a little less than jolly this time of year:
Talk About It
Most people don’t walk around broadcasting that they’re having a hard time, but I’ve seen time and time again how vulnerability leads to connection. Let the people you love know if you are going through a hard time so they can commiserate and/or support you. Most people’s actual lives are not accurately depicted in their glossy holiday cards or curated Instagram posts, so if you’re brave enough to be real about how you’re feeling, others are sure to follow.
Create Space for Grief
Anyone who knows me knows that this is a tough one for me. I am happiest when zipping from thing to thing, but I’ve also learned that you can’t outrun grief, so it helps to carve out a little space for it. My father’s birthday was January 2nd, and the anniversary of his death follows in February, so the winter months always stir up a lot of complicated emotions for me. I’ve found it helpful to anticipate the grief, and make sure I carve out some dedicated time to write, walk, think, and process. When my brother is in town we plan a day to visit the cemetery together followed by a hike and a nice lunch. I’ll also schedule a therapy or coaching session close to anniversaries or holidays because knowing that I have a safe container for my grief feels much better than running from or resisting it.
Create More of What You Want
I spent years feeling sorry for myself, and wasting time on the same old story, before I figured out that adults get to create what they want. Better late than never! Instead of dwelling on the idea that I grew up without a big family, and don’t have any fun holiday traditions to celebrate, I started creating my own sweet celebrations. Next year, I’m planning to start a new tradition where we take a special trip to somewhere we’ve never been over the holidays. Traditionally we’ve never traveled because travel rates are so inflated and winter weather can be challenging, but even driving to explore a new city for a few days seems like a great alternative to feeling restless at home. Consider what feels important to you over the holidays and take small steps to create more of what you want.
Do More Good
There has been all sorts of research about the power of generosity and giving back. One of the most effective ways I know to stop a pity party dead in its tracks is to focus on making a positive contribution. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Donate something nice to someone in need. Pay for somebody’s coffee at Starbucks. Little things make a big difference and there is literally no downside to giving back.
Rejoice in the Little Things
There are always bright spots to be found, even during the most challenging of times. If you look for them they’re everywhere. Today from my bed, I wrote down a few: The sound of my girls’ laughter downstairs. Flannel sheets. Fresh flowers on the nightstand. A cool breeze from the open window. Soup delivery from a friend. Netflix.
Sending all of you love this holiday season, whether you are jolly or sad or a bit of both, and wishing everyone a healthy and happy holiday season. Xx
Photography Credit: June Home Supply