This is For You If You Dread the Holiday Season

If you struggle with this time of year, please know you aren’t alone. Holiday stress and burnout affect many of us, yet we may feel the need to put on a happy face during holiday parties. Denying your feelings isn’t healthy, and there are other ways to manage holiday stress.

I’ve struggled with holiday stress for as long as I can remember. It’s actually fairly common to dread the Christmas season. Take divorced family baggage, not connecting at all to the religious overtones of the season, financial stress over gift giving, SAD during short days, and mounting obligations and my Christmas wish was for the holidays to be over.

For years as a kid, I dreaded the holidays so much I made myself sick with a fever and chills.

Holiday Expectations

Too often people who love us the most want us to cheer up for the holidays. Yet the need to fake a smile for someone else only makes our dread and holiday stress intensify. We’re told our blues aren’t valid because, you know, it’s Christmas and we are supposed to feel happy and merry and joyful and bright. We start to beat ourselves up for not feeling the joy that everyone else seems to feel.

Or we may paste on a smile for that office party, but fall to pieces in our own beds because our lives don’t exactly look the way we wish they did. We are forced to admit where we haven’t gotten what we wanted from the year.

Milestone events like the Christmas season have a way of bringing into sharp relief all the little ways we think we’ve failed ourselves. Or other people have failed us. Or we’ve come up short despite our best efforts.

Maybe this wasn’t a good year for you at work, so you can’t spend as money much on presents as you’d like to.

Or maybe you had love this time last year and now you’re alone.

Or perhaps your biological family criticizes your gender presentation or doesn’t respect your pronouns or your career or something else about you that’s core to your identity, and going home means constant pressure to conform with something that doesn’t fit you.

Maybe your family is dysfunctional and every year you relive the same tedious family dramas around the Christmas tree.

All of these should haves create serious pressure to fake it for everyone asking you to make merry, to shame yourself over the things you want but haven’t yet achieved, to prove your love by overspending on gifts, and even to pretend that the world isn’t a flaming dumpster fire of inequality because it’s Jesus’s birthday.

Add to it the social media shares and influx of seasonal greeting cards and the guilt, stress, and negativity compounds into a toxic stew.

Holiday Stress Self-Care Tips

There are many legitimate reasons to hate the holidays, and you do not need to fake happiness if you don’t feel it.

You do not need to go home if your biological family does not see your light.

You do not need to exchange greeting cards or season’s greetings or gifts.

You can say no to any of it – or to all of it.

You can set boundaries and take space to care for your self and your needs.

You can decide what traditions to keep and what to let go, so you can cultivate what feels right to you.

I wish all of you who are struggling with this season peace. Let go of other people’s expectations, draw a deep breath, and find the strength to set the boundaries you need to nourish your inner light.

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