Feeling Less than Festive? Here’s How to Cope

 minute read

The Christmas lights are up, the trees are decked with shiny baubles, and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” is playing on the radio. If the songs are to be believed, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and if that’s the case, then why does it feel like ‘tis the season…to be stressed out?

If done right, Christmas should feel like the time for reflection and gratitude, spent with the people that you love most, and hopefully eating the food you love the most (whether that be turkey or Chinese takeout is completely up to you). Instead, it can feel like a potent mix of pressure to beat end-of-year deadlines, seem like you’re in a festive mood, spend money that you may not have, and spend time with people that you may not particularly enjoy (dinner table discussions of politics aside).

Unless you live somewhere sunny or you’re a seasoned fan of wintery weather, you’re probably dealing with the outdoor cold and gloom, which alone makes it hard to have pep in your step. Throw in feeling the need to be in the Christmas spirit, and you may have already reached your breaking point. Let’s not forget that you’ll have to fork out cash by the barrel full for gifts, food, decorations, parties, and possibly travel. Now both you and your bank account have reached its limit.

Suddenly, it’s easy to sympathize with The Grinch, and it’s almost a miracle that people can survive the flurry of December without it taking a mental toll. The keys to surviving this season? Set clear boundaries, celebrate the way you see fit, and reach out for help if you’re struggling (the last part is not easy, but it’s especially important).

Skip the Christmas party if it’s not your thing. Skip Secret Santa, or just get an inexpensive gift and don’t feel guilty about it. Maybe make an agreement with friends and family not to buy gifts for one another (or just buy gifts for the kids, if kids are a factor). Deadlines are an unfortunate reality no matter the time of year, but every project finished means one step closer to Christmas break.

For most, spending time with family is the best part of this season, but for others, it can bring up feelings of dread and immense anxiety. Don’t be afraid to set clear boundaries with certain family members, and if that doesn’t work, spend this season with friends (they’re the family you choose, after all). If you’ve lost a loved one, it’s very much okay to still make them a part of celebrations, whether that’s setting a place at the table for them, or introducing something they loved as a yearly tradition. If you’re feeling lonely and helpless, try volunteering at your local community center or soup kitchen. Giving back is a good way to remember what this season is all about. 

The bottom line? It’s okay if you don’t feel like celebrating Christmas this year, or any year. It’s more than okay to spend it your underwear, eating takeout and watching Friends reruns (that certainly still qualifies as a celebration, by any standards). Most importantly, be kind to yourself – that's the best and most important celebration of all.

Photo credit: Mourad Saadi

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