The holiday season is here! Sleigh bells are ringing and jingling.

This time of the year can be beautiful and difficult. It can brighten hearts and it can illuminate solemn hearts.

I encourage you, this holiday season, to honor yourself. Instead of putting on that shiny mask for this special time of year…

What would happen if you engaged in some holiday traditions in a way that felt honoring of you instead of out of obligation?

How can you allow yourself to find peace in feeling lonely?

What would happen if you answered honestly when your family asks you ‘how you have been this year’?

Holiday Traditions

Some holiday traditions are wonderful, and we genuinely feel lit up by them. Connecting with loved ones and a playful activity can be such fun! Go for it – dive in. One of my favorites is creating an advent calendar for my partner and kiddo.

Some holiday traditions might seem neutral to you. You might not love them but feel okay and can still get behind them. Aunt Selma really loves it when we all say ‘and to all a good night’ after dinner. Not too bad right. Life is a compromise, after all!

Some holiday traditions might be more challenging to participate in if you can’t get behind them or they don’t mean much to you. They might clash with who you are today. It might feel like you are trapped in a loop of an older version of you that doesn’t fit you anymore. The shoes are too tight but you are being asked to wear them once a year and it feels like you are berated when you don’t want to wear them.

How can you engage in the latter traditions in a way that is honoring of yourself? Sometimes this means having a tough conversation with loved ones or breaking a pattern that many people don’t love but don’t have the energy to call out as no longer fun or exciting.

How can you blend tradition with the modern version of yourself?

Feeling Lonely Over The Holidays:

You can be in a crowded room and feel lonely.

You can be completely on your own and feel full.

In counseling, we talk about how feelings give us information. I tend not to judge or label feelings as good or bad. They simply are. Lonely is a feeling that comes with certain sensations. Sensations that drive us towards connection. What I find happens sometimes, however, is in a desperate rush to eliminate the uncomfortable sensations of loneliness people erratically make choices to be around people that don’t truly have their best interest at heart.

What if it was okay to feel lonely? What if when your Uncle Jim asked you why you aren’t saddled up yet – you didn’t scan your brain for the last remotely flirtatious conversation you had and created a story about it to satisfy Uncle Jim? What if you didn’t stress about finding someone to bring to your Christmas party and instead showed up as you are in all your glory?

Could you, instead, be with your loneliness and use this opportunity to consider what type of people you do want to connect with? Maybe there are some opportunities to rekindle an old friendship or transition some people from ‘acquaintance’ to ‘friend’. See if there are opportunities out there.

If you can’t see any opportunities – that is okay too. This moment might be uncomfortable, but it isn’t forever. The only thing that is forever is change! What are some things you really enjoy doing that it is hard to find others to do them with? Is there a holiday concert or festival you really want to go to but can’t find anyone to go with – what would happen if you went alone and enjoyed it?

Family Over The Holidays

This section might deserve its very own blog section instead of a subsection! However, here we are – talking about taking care of yourself over the holidays, and this blog would be incomplete if we didn’t at least attempt to explore the obligations to connect with family and long-term friends over the holidays.

It can be tricky to have the obligatory reconnect with all sorts of family members. There might be strain in a relationship that you must face and be amicable with. Perhaps everyone knows that ‘Juno’ has really been struggling but ‘Juno’ is trying really hard to prove to everyone that they are okay. Perhaps you are ‘Juno’.

I think one of the tricky things about reconnecting with family over the holidays is that it feels obligatory. You have a sense of how the night is going to unfold. Grandma will say something inappropriate, and uncle will try to keep the peace. Auntie will be watching for gossip, planning her call to her out-of-town sister and cousin is in the corner on their phone.

A Few Tips

  1. Set realistic expectations. Know what you are getting into. Don’t sugar coat or blissfully hope it will be great. Know that you can likely expect XYZ to happen with some genuine laughter here and some genuine discomfort there.
  2. If you need to set a boundary – set a plan for after the holiday event so you can have an ‘escape route’ if needed.
  3. If you need help to get through it – create a safety plan. Do you have one safe family member you can buddy up with? If not, can you text a friend throughout the celebration to support you?
  4. Before going, get grounded in yourself. Remember that even if these people don’t really know the real you – you do and you are GREAT!
  5. If there is something specific, you are worried about (for example your Uncle Jim asking you why you aren’t saddled up yet) see if you can create a response that feels good to you. Practice it beforehand so you feel confident in your response.

I don’t want to sign off in a trite way of ‘happy holidays’ or ‘wishing you and yours all the best over the holiday season’.

Holidays can bring up so much for so many people. The holiday season can be beautiful and trying. I wish you a holiday season where you find a pocket to honor yourself this year.