For some, the winter holidays aren’t all festivities and fun. They might be fraught with discomfort or distress. Experiences of grief, loneliness, anxiety, and an uptick in trauma symptoms are not uncommon. We’ve assembled some tips in this holiday coping guide to help get you through the season.
Acknowledge your struggle. Acknowledge that this time of year can be challenging. Name the experience for yourself, perhaps saying, “This is a difficult time for me.” Allow yourself to feel the uncomfortable feelings without suppressing them. Be compassionate toward yourself. Carry yourself with kindness and grace.
Remember that others struggle too. Others have difficulties with the holiday season too, and while you might not enjoy the idea of other people suffering, it can sometimes bring comfort to realize that you’re not the only one engaged in a particular struggle. Holiday difficulties are a real and shared experience.
Take care of your body. You can help make yourself less vulnerable to difficult experiences and emotions by keeping your body in balance. Try to get sufficient sleep. Nourish yourself. Move your body if you can. Be careful with mood-altering substances, as they can intensify painful emotions. Holiday coping starts with regulating your body and mind.
Make the holiday yours. While most holidays come with certain traditions, that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own. Maybe your holiday traditions involve sleeping in, or watching the same feel-good movie every year, or always catching up with a friend. You can make the holiday your own by creating personal rituals and celebrations.
Set realistic expectations. Anticipating the best holiday season ever might set you up for disappointment. See if you can rein in your expectations, setting intentions and goals that are more realistic. This one is particularly important right now, in the height of a global pandemic.
Schedule “me” time. Since the holidays often involve spending time with others, make sure you’re carving out time and space for yourself. Particularly if you tend toward introversion, “me” time is crucial to rest and recharge.
Set boundaries. Be clear on what feels right for you and what doesn’t. Holiday coping often involves establishing clear boundaries with others. You might set boundaries around time, physical space, conversation topics, etc. Check out our beginner’s guide to setting boundaries if this is new for you.
Develop a plan. For challenging situations, map out a plan in advance. Figure out what you’ll need (e.g., an escape route, some support) and rehearse your plan before going in. Worried about getting triggered or drinking too much or getting into a conflict? Mentally prepare yourself for, and strategize around, different scenarios.
Seek out support. Rely on your network for connection and support. Ask for help when needed. You might want to make sure you keep your regularly scheduled therapy appointments, if possible, asking for additional support, if needed.
Remind yourself, “This too shall pass.” No matter how challenging the holidays are, the new year will come, and the season will be over. The decorations will come down, the expectations will lower, and people will get back to business as usual. Knowing there’s an end in site can often make a difficult situation more bearable.
We wish you peace, health, and comfort this holiday season.