Once again, the holiday season is upon us. It comes every year, whether we like it or not. Many people find it fun and exciting – they get into the holiday spirit, and are sad when it is over.
Then, there are people who dread the holidays. Everything about the season is torturous, from Christmas music in the stores to family meals, or perhaps the lack of a family. It’s no exaggeration - people who dread the holidays can become depressed, anxious and even angry. As Sarah Vine wrote, “Christmas is like childbirth: magical in theory; excruciating in practice.”
Since you can’t avoid the holiday season, here are a few steps you can take to make them a little less painful:
1. Figure out where you need help during the holidays.
One way to discover your trouble spots is to write a list of all the things you dread this time of year, even the little things. For each item on the list, write an opposite activity. For example: “I hate going to stores during the holidays. They are crowded and the traffic is awful; therefore, I will order my gifts on line.” Consult a friend or a therapist if you need help with alternative options.
2. Remember that the holiday season will end.
The longest the holidays will last for most people is January 2nd. Depending on your circumstances, they could end sooner.
3. Listen to what you think and say about the holidays.
Do you consciously or unconsciously dwell on your misery? We can make things feel much worse that they have to be, by going over and over how awful it will be.
4. Think about your expectations for the holiday season and write them down.
Look at the language, and then rewrite those expectations to make them more realistic. Replace your dread with positive language reinforcing that your experiences will not be awful.
5. It may not feel like it, but you do have choices during the holiday season.
It is perfectly acceptable to say no, even if others disagree with your decision. Make choices that focus on what you want to do, rather than on obligations that could be real or imagined.
6.In situations where you feel you have no choice, limit your time.
If family parties are difficult, keep moving and don’t spend a lot of time with one person. If you get in a difficult conversation, change the subject. Consider excusing yourself to the restroom. It is a great way to exit a conversation or situation, and have some socially acceptable alone time. Ask a friend to be on-call so you can make a quick connection with someone who supports you.
7. Is excess food and drink a problem?
A glass filled with soda, soda water, or sparkling cider can be a good decoy for those who push you to drink alcohol. If you want to avoid overindulging in alcohol, drink a nonalcoholic beverage after each cocktail. That will slow your consumption of alcohol. Over eating can be treated the same way. Eating very slowly not only helps you limit your food, it also keeps food on your plate so no one pushes seconds. While eating, be sure to have a beverage on hand. It will slow your eating and help you feel full. Try putting your fork down between bites to stay aware of how much you are eating.
8. Develop plans that you enjoy with people you enjoy.
Look for activities that take you and your friends away from the holiday hype.
9. Last but not least, find some humor in these holiday experiences that you dread.
YouTube is a great resource for humorous material. Watch funny holiday movies. Or pick up a humorous book, such as The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris. It is the story of his adventures working as Santa’s elf. Again, consult friends or a therapist to brainstorm options.
If you are having difficulty dealing with the holidays and finding it hard to find choices which will help you feel better, I can help. As a woman I work with said, “I no longer dread the holidays. I know what I enjoy during this time and I concentrate on that.” Call me at: 919-881-2001.