Thanksgiving has passed and the December holidays are upon us – a time for peace, joy and family harmony. Wait – that’s not what your holidays look like? Most don’t. So what are some ways to manage your emotions when the holidays aren’t necessarily happy?
So much of pain is a result of expectations that haven’t been met. The Norman Rockwell picturesque family gatherings are not the norm. Of course it would be nice if Mom was warm and supportive and Dad didn’t bring up the latest political drama, but if that’s just how they are, it’s not likely to have miraculously changed since the last event. You might try decreasing the amount of time you spend with them, or maybe even skipping it altogether if necessary. There’s no need to subject yourself to treatment because it’s a holiday that you wouldn’t tolerate on any other day. Often though, you’ll find that by having realistic expectations you might be able to find more enjoyment in the things that aren’t so bad.
Limit social media comparisons
It’s great to be able to keep in touch with friends via social media, but make sure you’re not comparing your everyday life to someone else’s highlight reel. It’s easy to crop out the mess before posting a picture of the gingerbread house just created, and that’s not necessarily wrong. But when you find yourself wondering why you’re the only one who doesn’t “have it all together,” take a moment to realistically assess the comparison you’re making. You are probably far more normal than you think.
Give yourself permission to grieve
Whether it’s your first holiday since the death of a loved one or you’re still adjusting to life after divorce, be kind to yourself. Drop some expectations you have for yourself, or let others know you won’t be able to meet theirs. Grieving is an important part of healing, so avoid the urge to pretend everything is OK when it’s not.
Make your own holiday
There are many reasons you might not gather for the holidays. Sometimes there is geographical distance, and sometimes just more family units than there are holiday options. So how about creating a new holiday? There’s nothing magic about a day on the calendar, so maybe create a family ‘Thanksmas’ or decide to celebrate on December 28th or even sometime in January. If the real point is family togetherness, get creative!
Whatever you decide works best for you, do it with confidence and self-compassion.