The holidays can be a stressful time of year. For some people, it’s stressful to be alone. For others, it’s stressful to be with family. Some of you may also be grieving the loss of someone close to you this holiday season. Take care of yourself, and if you can, someone else.
If you’re celebrating any holidays at this time of year, I hope that you have a happy holiday. I will be taking the next two weeks off from the podcast to spend some time with family and friends. Even though I am a Baha’i and don’t celebrate Christmas specifically, many of my friends and family do so I’ll celebrate with them.
Happy ?! Holidays!?
I was chatting with a friend recently who talked of being an orphan, walking around the city and looking into people’s homes, seeing their decorations and seemingly happy families inside. He shared how lonely he felt watching from the outside at something he yearned for and had no way to attain.
How do you feel about the holidays?
If you celebrate Christmas, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, New Years, and all the other holidays that are coming up, I hope that you have someone that you can spend time with if you want to. It’s possible to be alone and not lonely. But if you are lonely, you may be able to meet some people through a Facebook group or some other online group and meet up with them for some connection, conversation, and fun.
It’s not quite the same thing but I remember feeling lonely one Canadian Thanksgiving in Prague. I found a group of Canadians and went for a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner with them. In other years, I was happy to be on my own. Tune into what you need and try to connect in a way that you can meet that need.
With COVID 19 still raging and wreaking havoc around the world, it may be a bit more difficult to meet people in person. If you’re religious, perhaps you can find some people online for church of some sort. If you need to keep busy, perhaps you can find a workshop or some other organized online activity.
If you need to reach out for help, check online for resources in your area or country. For the US, there are a variety of resources.
Maybe you love spending time with your family, and it’s all fun, games, and excitement. If that’s the case, I’m delighted for you.
8 tips to help you survive the holidays with challenging family dynamics
For some of you, even if you’re going to be with people, it can still be lonely. You might feel like you don’t belong or you may have a challenging relationship with some of your family members. If that’s the case, here are some tips that have worked for me:
- Find your person or people. If you’re going to be with family, is there at least one person there that you can be completely yourself with, someone who will look out for you and act as a buffer if you need help dealing with a challenging family member? Talk beforehand with that person and tell them what you need from them. Ask them for their help.
- Are there any family members who struggle even more than you in family get togethers? Are you able to be there for them. Perhaps the two of you can escape from the rest of the family sometimes for a walk?
- Don’t be afraid to take some time away by yourself. I like to hide in the bathroom but that’s hard to do if there are lots of people around. I think it’s perfectly fine to go for a walk, call up a friend for a coffee break, etc.
- Find somewhere to stay where you feel comfortable or cared for. You don’t have to stay with your sister/parents/brother/friend for the whole time that you’re visiting.
- Have a friend ready in DM or speed dial that you can reach out to if you need some support.
- Think ahead. What are your triggers? What are your boundaries? How do you want to behave in each situation where you are triggered? Set some intentions.
- Minimize the length of your trip. If you’re off for a week, you don’t have to visit with family for the whole time. Take some time before or after any visits with family for yourself.
- Practice being assertive (standing up for yourself) and saying no to take care of your mental health.
Watch out for yourself and also see who might need your help.
Five Ways You Can Help Others during the Holiday Season
If you can afford to help someone else, either with your time, care or money, I also invite you to do that.
- Help locally by donating a few cans of food to a soup kitchen or buying a gift for a child whose parents are struggling
- Volunteer with local groups that need help over the holidays
- Provide online workshops to help people in your communities
- Reach out to friends who you know are spending the holidays alone but also give them space. Let them know you are there but let them decide who they want to spend the holidays with and what they want to do
- Consider helping in a way that extends past this holiday season, for example, you can start an automatic monthly contribution to a charity, nonprofit or grassroots organization.
It’s hard to change our usual behaviors, especially with parents. It’s easy to fall back into your old patterns, to revert to your blueprint. If your family is traditional, it can be hard to tell them you do not want to stay with them. You may feel bad if you end up hurting Uncle Jack’s feelings if you cut him off when he starts trying to get into your business. As a woman over 40, I still have many of these same struggles. I bite my tongue, I seethe in silence, I do my best to avoid situations that bother me. That does not feel good. I don’t like myself in those moments. I’m working on changing that, of taking responsibility for behaving in a way that aligns with my beliefs and values. If I want respect, it starts with me. If I want acceptance, that begins with me too. As Sunitha reminded us, we get to find the areas of agreement with other people and to also ask them for what we want.
Get what you want for a happy holiday season
This holiday season, I invite you to ask for help, to ask for what you want. If you’re used to being the strong one or the one who does everything and you no longer want to, you can ask for help. And if you don’t receive any help, you can decide to let something go.
I’m not saying any of this is easy. It most certainly is not easy to change our behaviors, to behave differently in relationships, but it is possible.
Here’s where you start: what’s the smallest thing that you could do differently this year that could make your holidays happier, less stressful, more fun? Notice that I didn’t ask what your partner, children, parents can do, but rather what you can do. It could be a specific action that you will take, a change in your approach or process, or a mindset change.
If you’re ready for a bigger leap, what’s the thing you’ve always wanted to change about the holiday season. You’ve daydreamed about it, thought about it, planned it to some extent, but you always let something stop you. Maybe it’s fear of other people’s judgment or disappointment.
You have my permission to choose and pursue a happy holiday
From my perspective, 2020 and 2021 have been tough years for many of us. If there is one year when you can tell your family you’re not coming home, stay at home binge watching Netflix and reading, spend a couple of nights in a hotel on your own ordering room service, order in or go out for dinner with the family rather than cooking, or fly to a tropical paradise on your own, this is it. You deserve a holiday season that is just right for you.
Happy Holidays and I’ll be back with new episodes in 2022.
[00:19] Happy!? Holidays?
[01:18] How do you feel about the holidays?
[03:24] 8 tips to help you survive the holidays with challenging family dynamics
[06:07] Five ways you can help others during the Holiday Season
[08:36] Get what you want for a happy holiday season
[10:28] You have permission to decide and pursue a happy holiday
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- Option B, a resource for life-changing challenges, connected to a new book by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg
- Warmlines for someone to talk to
- Mental Health America