How to Cope When the Holidays are Not Merry & Bright


While the whole world is ringing bells and singing, you are struggling. Here's how to cope when the holidays are not merry and bright.

While the whole world seems to be ringing bells and singing, you are struggling.

The holidays are a season of faking a smile and pretending that everything is ok.

Things are definitely not ok, but these are things you don’t talk about at the company holiday party.

Like how the fighting with your spouse is getting to be too much to bear.   Or, how baking Christmas cookies is a trigger for your daughter’s anorexia. Or, how you can’t find a good picture of your son for the holiday card because he has refused to participate in any family activities lately.   Or, how a certain Christmas carol reminds you of your mom who passed away 2 years ago.

Your pain doesn’t stop just because someone put up a strand of bright lights.

While it seems easier to hibernate through the season, here are some tips for making it a little more manageable.

1. Lower Your Expectations: This year is going to be different.   That is OK.   You may not have the energy (mental or physical) to hang the lights, write the cards and bake 12 different types of cookies.   Pick a few things that you love and let the rest go.

2. Make Space for Emotions:  It is OK to feel sadness, anger, frustration or grief, especially during the holidays. Give yourself time to express your feelings, talk, cry or journal. Ignoring or minimizing your feelings may make you feel even worse.

3. Be Choosy About Events: Social events may serve as a welcome distraction or they may be a burden.   If they are a burden, give yourself permission to skip a few things this year.   Practice saying, “We cannot make it this year.” It is OK not to give a reason.

4. Put Yourself First:   It sounds and feels selfish, but it may be your key to surviving this season.   Our bodies are not meant to function at a high level of stress for a long period of time.   Take time for self-care: a bath, a cup of tea, a walk or deep breathing.

5. Seek Out Good Support:  Not everyone needs to know what is going on at home. It’s ok to keep nosy Aunt Bertha in the dark about Susie’s struggles at school.   Instead, confide in a few trustworthy friends, join a support group or seek a therapist.

6. Think Happy Thoughts: If you are gravitating toward negative thinking, counter those thoughts with something positive. Write a list of things that you are thankful for, or focus on the meaning of the season, rather than the commercialism.

7. Help Others: One of the best ways to combat feelings of isolation and depression is by helping others.   Find an organization to support by volunteering or donating. This does not change or minimize the struggles in your own life, but it may shift your focus.

Remember, this is just a season.   The holidays will end, and everyone will return to reality.   You can survive this season. However, you may need support.   If you feel that this season is too much for you to bear alone, I encourage you to reach out for help from a therapist, friend or pastor.
Image credit: emielcia / 123RF Stock Photo

Nicole Schwarz (couch 3)

Welcome! I'm Nicole Schwarz.

I'm a Parent Coach, Licensed Therapist and Author of It Starts with You. I help stressed, overwhelmed, confused parents find calm, confidence and connection with their kids. No one is expecting perfection here. But, if you’re willing to examine your parenting, find encouragement, or try something new, this is the place for you.

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