How to Avoid the Holiday Blues

nikki's blog Dec 02, 2019

Taking an informal poll among all the Gals I’ve seen in the last few weeks, most of them report how they go through the motions every year during the Holiday Season and every year they end up overwhelmed, resentful or just plain exhausted.

If you’re in the same boat, I’d like to suggest some holiday hacks that will help you stop over-functioning, start enjoying yourself and creating precious memories instead.

How does the Holiday Season make you feel? Or, a more important question might be, how do you WANT it to make you feel?

Are you in high spirits, full of excited anticipation? Maybe you’re ‘should’ing’ on yourself for not being more enthusiastic? Or it could be that it’s just a difficult time of year for you?

If you’re in the camp where you can anticipate some challenges then this vlog’s for you!

Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza, even the biggest celebrators don’t escape feeling blue (however fleetingly) at some point over the holidays.

It’s a time that so easily triggers our expectations of how our relationships should be, and what a good family should look like.

There’s also a lot of pressure to be feeling happy this time of year, and if you’re not, you can end up feeling like scrooge, even if there are some really good reasons why.

Many valid things may be contributing to your holiday blues; financial worries, over-indulging, or that it reminds you of a dearly departed loved one. Heck, we can even blame it on the weather, as in the case of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Even just the anticipation of it all can leave you feeling flat, especially if it failed to deliver, or if you over-delivered.

For many women the blues can be caused by all the work involved in making everyone else’s holiday wonderful, but this year I encourage you to swap the over-accommodating for a more creative way to make EVERYONE happy, and yes that means you too Girl!

It can be really hard to let go of tradition, so today I’m going to give you some options that’ll make it much easier.

I’m Nikki Green, a sexual/marital therapist, affairs expert and the co-founder of The Academy of Lasting Love and I’ve put together a few ideas that have served me well over the years. I hope they’ll inspire you to dump the usual holiday hustle and reinvent things for yourself this year.

1) Manage your expectations.

Yes the Holiday Season can be a wonderful time, but the stress of cooking, cleaning, and sorting out gifts can be so distracting that it becomes hard to really appreciate the time with the family.

The key here is to avoid setting unrealistic expectations that’ll make you feel like a failure if anything goes wrong.

For example instead of expecting it to all be wonderful, a more realistic goal may be to hope for some good food, a couple of moments to connect with loved ones, and a few pockets where you can relax.

I guess what I’m really saying here is you can choose to avoid stress and enjoy things more by not letting ‘perfection’ be the enemy of ‘good’.

Yeah you ladies know who I’m talking about right?

If this is a sad time of year where it’s difficult to feel happy because you lost a loved one or you’re missing not having someone special to share it with, try and find a ‘Blue’ Holiday Services in your area (or online even). It can be a more authentic way to honour your loss or loneliness.

Feeling and acknowledging the pain allows us to move through it, very possibly to a place of appreciation for the wonderful memories we once shared, or the excited anticipation for what’s yet to come.

These services usually fall around the winter solstice, so your spirits can be buoyed back up by the big day. You can also help other members of the family if they’re feeling the loss too, by setting a seat at the table for the absent loved one.

2) Don’t over-schedule yourself.

Cramming things into your calendar, or worse, not writing anything down, will increase your level of stress as the holiday approaches.

Make a strategic plan regarding gift and food buying and try and get loads done ahead of time. That way you’ll have time, for once, to enjoy those little holiday rituals that can really serve to get you in the mood, bond with your family and enjoy the beauty of the season. That’s really what memories are made of right?

This is also a great time to create family traditions with your kids, or grandkids if you were too busy working when your kids were small. They could be making festive dishes together, or even doing some outreach work with your children, maybe for people who don’t get to have presents or festive food the way you do.

It develops the ‘habit to help’ at an early age and also helps them understand what the true ‘gift of giving’ is all about.

So that it’s not just a box ticking exercise that feels like a chore to them, don’t forget to tell them about how much you appreciate their help and how much you’re enjoying just being with them. People, even kids, love to please- especially if they’re getting kudos for it.

If it’s true, tell them you believe the delights are even tastier because you made them together, or point how fortunate you feel to have all this while so many other’s don’t!

Perspective is such a great way to build appreciation.

3) Stop Auto-Accommodating.

Please do yourself a huge favour and learn how to just say no.

Obligations run rife at this time of year. Trust that you’re a good enough wife/mother/friend and make a pact with yourself not to do anything you don’t really want to do this holiday.

Trust me, you’ll still be doing lots, but if it doesn’t feel like something you want to do simply say “for the sake of my sanity I’m going to say no to that request”, and just give them a big smile. Remember, anyone who keeps pushing obviously thinks their needs, or the needs of their project, are more important than your sanity, and it shouldn’t be too hard to stand your ground knowing that, right?

If you’re fed up with the obligatory pressures around gift giving, certainly introduce the Secret Santa concept if you haven’t already, it’s a great way to take the pressure off everyone.

Just because growing up many of us had loads of gifts to unwrap (or if we didn’t we wish we’d had), doesn’t mean we have to blindly do that for our kids too.

Don’t be afraid to talk to them about the sense of obligation and futility, or whatever it is that you feel regarding the time and effort it takes to shop and wrap all the stuff, most of which will end up in the landfill.

Ask them to help you understand what the best parts of the holidays are for each of them. Give them examples, or come up with a list together of all the things that might be fun or meaningful. This’ll help younger kids understand the options too. Then, incorporate them all into the family experience - it’s a great team-building exercise.

If they love presents, one example may be one or two truly great gifts instead of a bunch. Another may be to give a little stocking with a few yummy, fun or useful little things, including some money so they can buy what they truly want.

That was my daughter Cleo’s option, and we still had great Christmases creating traditions and making and eating great food, and she got to enjoy buying what she really wanted, often at a huge after-Christmas discount.

4) Ask for, or offer help.

If you’re the kind-hearted soul who’s offered to host, realise that just organizing the food and guests and giving them a place to gather is already giving more than most.

If you do it every time and there are several families involved or it doesn’t feel right to foot the bill every year, it’s not unreasonable to tally up everything spent on the day (by everyone) and divvy up the costs among the number of adults present. Just don’t forget to send them home with some leftover too.

Don’t be afraid to delegate either, whether it’s organizing who brings what dish, ordering out, or asking people to come early to help prepare.

It feels good to give and to help, so really you’re doing them a favor by asking them to help.

5) Allow for Time-out.

When you’re in the fray of a family event, even if you’re unaware of it, pressure can easily build, especially at this time of year.

It’s not unreasonable for you to want to take some time alone. Whether it’s going for a quick walk, a cup of herbal tea in your bedroom, or even just popping out to the shops by yourself.

This little time-out can provide a mental and emotional reset and some much-needed perspective.

6) Give family the benefit of the doubt, but not free reign.

Whether it’s working hard to make a good impression on your partner’s family for the first time (you’d be amazed how far pleases and thank-yous can go!), or it it’s avoiding controversial topics like religion or politics, be they global or family politics, always keeping the end game in mind will help you stay motivated, and not see it as such a chore.

If you do find yourself in the middle of a heated debate among relatives, just say:
“While everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion, for the sake of not spoiling this experience for everyone else, especially after I’ve worked so hard on it, I’d really appreciate it if you guys would please leave this conversation for another day when we’re not celebrating” (or under the influence of alcohol, stress or lack of sleep).

Anyway I hope I’ve given you some food for thought and that keeping some of these in mind will help you have an easier and more enjoyable holiday.

Until next time, be good to yourself, and remember to keep it real.

With light and love

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