It’s been years since my back hurt like it does right now. Surrounded by family and friends, I find it hard to focus on the “Thanksgiving” that fills the room. Right now, I just need to manage my pain.
Unfortunately, I am no stranger to not enjoying the holidays. I battled depression for seven years, from my late teens to mid-twenties. For me, holidays were almost unbearable. Often enough, while others celebrated, I battled feeling disconnected and alone—even in a room full of people.
Despite its bright lights and festivities, the holidays can be the most depressing time of year for many. Forget the holidays — let it be January 2nd already! It isn’t that happiness will magically appear, but at least others won’t be shoving joy and gratitude down my throat.
The struggle to enjoy the holidays can be rooted in many things. Some don’t enjoy it because every year they drain and overextend themselves hosting the parties that make everyone else happy. Some dislike the holidays because it means dealing with difficult relatives. For others it means reliving the grief of loved ones now gone. The holidays can also be a frustrating reminder of how little life has changed from the year before—causing us to feel like failures.
If the holidays are something you dread or find excessively stressful, here are some strategies and tips to help you navigate the season:
Respect Your Limits: Boundaries are designed to protect us. Ignoring them usually leads to negative consequences. Knowing when and how to say no can be critical to saving your holiday season—and your sanity! If every year brings stress because you lack boundaries, it is time to set some. If overspending is your issue, take the time to determine your holiday budget and stick to it. If your challenge is an overloaded social calendar, decide how many engagements you will attend before the invitations start arriving. And, if negative familial interactions are the problem, plan your response so you’re ready when the usual suspects strike.
Switch It Up: Sometimes it is the “sameness” of every holiday that can drive us mad. We go to the same places, with the same people and have the same arguments as the year before. Remember, change comes into our lives when we are willing to take responsibility for it. These changes don’t have to be monumental or radical. In fact, it is usually the small changes that make the biggest difference. Maybe this isn’t the year you refuse to host Christmas dinner, but sharing cooking duty would help alleviate stress. Go for the small change with immediate impact.
Talk About It—Productively: Sometimes we simply need to proactively communicate our frustrations and concerns. Bottling things up or complaining only makes us feel victimized. Talking to others in a way that clearly shows we want to do more than just vent engages them in helping us discover solutions.
LIVE IT! -- Play your life’s movie forward. Spend 15-30 minutes 1) writing down what happens when you ignore your limits, then 2) write down how life would be better if you respected your limits. When tempted to ignore boundaries…take time to read it before you act. Reminding yourself of the benefits of change will help to reinforce new behaviors—and new realities!
Recently named the 2012 “North America’s Next Greatest Speaker” by eWomenNetwork, Felicia T. Scott is a Certified Empowerment Coach™ who shares transformational truths with practical wisdom, humor and insight. Follow her on Twitter.