“If you knew my family you would understand”!!

Recently I heard from a young woman who was sad and rather depressed about the holiday season. Her parents had passed away unexpectedly around Christmas when she young. The following years had not been happy experiences during the holidays. Her current husband’s family had some “real issues” including anger and alcohol. But family is family and she had to participate.

“How can I enjoy the holidays rather than dreading them and making myself depressed”?

Separation at the holidays from loved ones, a history of negative experiences and difficult people can make an otherwise joyful and celebratory holiday a real downer. But you can take some small steps to feel more of a sense of control and peace so you can create a new reality around the holidays.

Here are 5 tactics to imagining a happier holiday:

  • Have a plan– Before the holiday get-togethers, be realistic to what might happen. Make a time to arrive and a time to leave. Imagine different scenarios of dealing with any difficult family members. Know how you will respond to past types of situations so you don’t end up reacting. Stay close to safe people, avoid being alone with unsafe ones. Think through conversations that might come up and how you can change the subject or politely not engage in the conversation. “Oh, let’s not talk about that today, let’s just enjoy our holiday.” Or, “I don’t really have an opinion about that” or “I don’t care to discuss that.”
  • Examine yourself- Understand the situations that can trigger you. Get rid of the “I should do this” or “I have to do that.” It’s the holidays! Enjoy what you want to enjoy and let others enjoy what they want to. We are all different. Encourage yourself and everyone else to honor differences. If talking about loved ones who are passed is too hard, just let people know this is a sensitive subject and one you would rather not discuss right now.
  • Make a self-care strategyIn advance, know how you can excuse yourself and find a safe place. Maybe you get up and “go stretch your legs.” Go to the restroom, take a short walk outside, do some deep breathing. Again, have a plan before you arrive to be able to take good care of yourself.

Keep Going!

  • Reframe your thoughts- If the holidays are generally sad or unhappy, try changing how you see them. Circumstances that have happened around the holiday time frame are not the holiday itself. Remember the fun, the celebrations, the meaning of Christmas, the people you love and the many things that are a blessing in your life. Re-frame any negative pictures into positive ones by moving your mind toward appreciation and gratitude. Focus on how beautiful the decorations are, how happy the children opening presents are, how good the food is, or how great it is to have family. It is ok to have some sad memories around Christmas; that is normal. But also remember the wonderful things and celebrate the blessings of past friends and family members.
  • Have fun- Foster a positive attitude. Remember good times from the previous year and previous holidays. Find new activities to do at family dinners or at parties. Create new traditions that replace old, unhappy ones. Develop new rituals of connection that form new friendships and closer relationships. Watch old movies, put puzzles together, play games, bake a new dish, drink hot chocolate next to the fire. Just do something different!


“One of the most glorious messes in the world

 is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day.

Don’t clean it up too quickly.” Andy Rooney


Have a Merry Christmas! Enjoy the New Year! Love well!

Mike & Susan