Opting Out of the Holidays

It’s okay to be less than excited about the holidays.

The holidays may be harder because:

  • I’m a people pleaser. I get caught up in what my friends and family expect of me.
  • I shop compulsively and go into credit card debt this time of year.
  • I tend to binge eat when stressed or when certain social situations get to me.
  • The holidays remind me that some family and friends have died and I miss them.
  • I am single and it seems like everyone is coupled up.
  • I am far from my friends and family.
  • Political divides make being around my family really chaotic.
  • I’m in recovery from alcohol and drugs and it feels especially impossible to avoid risky situations this time of year.
  • It’s winter and I already have depression this time of year.
  • My family includes people who abused and neglected me.
  • My family disrespects my life choices and who I am.

Navigating the Holiday Season

I will be honest with myself.

It is entirely possible that opting out of the holidays is a good plan for you, but be honest with yourself about if that will leave you feeling too lonely. If that is the case, for most of us it is best to plan wisely and create new holiday rituals and traditions, on our own terms.

I decide.

It is your job to maintain your self respect. You will find some of these choices easy. There are obvious things you know deep in your gut that are just not good for you. Sit with yourself and be as realistic as possible. The holidays can unravel people. Lisa Najavits who wrote Seeking Safety calls it Avoiding Avoidable Suffering. It is a very important coping skill.

There will be gray areas to consider. Maybe you have been invited by people who are truly nice to you but their Christmas music, loud children and certain food at their event makes it just not your jam. You can decide to abide the scene for a little while and then go home. You can show them that you value seeing them but not torture yourself for hours. Alternately, you can decline that invitation but suggest a different way to spend time with them. Not everything needs to be an all or nothing. You decide.

If you are hesitant and unsure when you get invited to something, try this. “I’m gonna have to get back to you on that.” This is a phrase that can be used all year long but is especially useful during the holidays.

I can let others be disappointed.

You aren’t responsible for other people’s feelings. Other people might be disappointed about your choices. You are the one who needs to live with how things impact you. For example, there might be some people who have abused and mistreated you. They don’t deserve your time.

There may be things that you get invited to do that hold zero interest or happen when you are already exhausted. It is okay to say, “No.” You can say it clearly but politely and without excuse. And it is a great idea to reach out to your support people before and after these assertive moves. Get a pep talk and a debriefing session. This stuff can be really hard.

I actually like some festive things.

For some of us, it is about having established close friends who have become our chosen family. Creating new traditions can go a long way in helping us cope with what can be the roughest time of the year. For example, I love having a gingerbread house building party with my friends every year. It gets incredibly silly and we have even done it as an online party during the pandemic.

And if I am entirely honest with myself, I love to watch old movies like The Bishop’s Wife with Loretta Young, Cary Grant and David Niven.

Sometimes there are even shows I will agree to go to, with silly gay dancing and singing for the holidays or women singing medieval music at the cathedral. (Seattle’s Medieval Women’s Choir-Music of Mirth! December 4th at St. James.)

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.

Audrey Hepburn

I can be of service.

Get out of your own head. Ask yourself, how you could be of service to another person? It increases self-esteem and strengthens relationships. It could be donating your money or time to a cause or it could be more personal. Your friends and family and co-workers are likely struggling with all this stress just as you are. Check in with them more often during this season. Offer your time to help them out. You are not the only one who feels overtired or too reflective.

I can access support.

Have safety plans. You might have overwhelmed feelings. Talk about how you feel. Reach out for support. If not with your closest people, use a hotline if you need to. And obviously I am fond of the idea of therapy as a possible support. https://wisewomantherapy.com/resource-links

If you are in recovery then you may already be getting to support meetings. Even if you haven’t gone for a while, meetings are still there. And meetings go on around the clock during the holidays. https://wisewomantherapy.com/about/

I will get through this.

And remember, this too shall pass. It will all be over and we will get a new year full of all kinds of possibilities.

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