Holidays can be a special time when there is joy in spending time with friends and family. It can be a time of joy with giving and gratitude. Unfortunately, for many people, the holidays can be a challenging time that can be a struggle to get through. These struggles can include dealing with the loss of an ideal or loved one, dealing with difficult people, and dealing with loneliness. However, there are ways to cope with challenges during the holidays.
The Loss of an Ideal
Holidays can be hard for people who see holidays as a time of year for family gatherings. People may have family gatherings but are enduring ruptures. Therefore, their family may feel incomplete and there can be struggles with the feelings that come up from that.
Others may have people missing from their family gatherings due to changes in life circumstances. For example, adult children who move away after getting their first job after university often don’t have the time off or funds to return home for Christmas. This is not due to an interpersonal relationship rupture but does take getting used to for people who have the ideal that family is together for the holidays.
It can be challenging to see what you wanted but never got, such as people who wanted a family or children, but it never came to be for various circumstances. The loss of an ideal is one of the challenges you can learn to cope with during the holidays.
Coping with the Loss of an Ideal During the Holidays
Identify at least one reliable coping mechanism you can use when negative emotions bubble up. It’s important to figure out what will help you before you need it. Some ideas of coping:
You are likely to feel some sadness and possibly other emotions. The holidays won’t be the same as you wish they were and that’s okay. Try to figure out what you want from the holidays considering what is going on. Figure out how you can make the most out of the holidays. Don’t feel like you have to do everything you’ve done in the past.
Be Honest with Yourself
It’s okay to feel angry or hurt about separations between you and close friends or family. It’s okay to protect yourself by creating separation from family that has hurt you.
Don’t schedule your way through the holidays. Make sure you have room to take care of yourself. Make sure you have the flexibility to change your plans if they don’t feel right.
Be Kind to Yourself
Make a physical list of all your positive attributes that you can use to make yourself to feel better when you are feeling down. Engage in activities that soothe you.
Plan ahead of how you are going to spend the days that are the most important to you. This can be going for a walk, doing a puzzle, or something else that calms your spirit.
Be Aware of What Your Triggers Are
Take a break from social media if you need to. Limit your time with people who are triggering or activities that are challenging for you.
Educate Others on How to be Supportive
Sometimes people don’t know how to help you, they want to help you but don’t know how. When you let them know how to support you, it makes supporting you easier.
Find Ways to Connect During the Holidays
This can be getting together with friends, family, or engaging in volunteer work.
Dealing with Difficult People
Often during the holidays, you end up having to spend time with people you find challenging. Whether they are family or work acquaintances. It can be due to different political opinions, people who tend to engage in gaslighting, or others who just rub you the wrong way. Dealing with difficult people is one of the challenges you can learn to cope with during the holidays.
Ways to Cope with Difficult People
Set time limits for conversations with difficult people (bathroom breaks or helping in the kitchen) or time at a gathering with difficult people. Don’t be afraid to say no to events or activities that can trigger excessive stress or resentment.
Re-evaluate Your Expectations
We are only let down or disappointed when our expectation is not met. Disappointment can lead to further negative emotions that can dampen our spirits. The key is not to have much expectation, especially if there is a history of disappointment attached.
Choose Your Battles Wisely
You don’t have to voice your opinion on every topic that comes up. It’s okay to know and not tell. Choosing your battles wisely is one of the best ways to manage holiday stress. Avoid too much time with that one person who always stirs up problems.
Avoid Comparisons Around the Holidays
Although it is difficult to avoid comparisons, it is very rewarding to not engage in it. It helps if you give yourself a pep talk and are confident in your phase of life. Good for them if they are doing well, things will happen for you when it is meant for you.
Take a Backseat
Don’t be afraid to sit back and observe as if you are a spectator. You don’t have to engage in conversations that can become heated or stressful. Don’t pay attention to what everyone has to say about you or your choices. Their opinions don’t have to dictate your life.
Worst Case Scenario
Think about the worst thing that could happen, and plan on how you will deal with it.
Keep Yourself Busy
An effective and possibly least offensive ways of avoiding any uncomfortable conversations is to be busy or at least pretend to be busy.
Take Some Time Out for Yourself
Now and then, we need to step away and just unwind. You might feel the need to do so more if you are dealing with toxic people around holidays. Plan fun games and even topics in advance so you can divert any uncomfortable questions or maybe avoid them altogether.
Focus on yourself and what you can control. You can only control how you react to what they say or do. Plan on what coping strategies you will use when dealing with difficult people.
Listen to Your Body
Listen to your body. Often you may start to get a headache or feel some discomfort in your body when it is becoming too much. You may also use that discomfort as a reason to leave.
Ride the Wave
Know that any emotion or anxiety that come from dealing with difficult people are temporary. Imagine yourself surfing the wave of emotion, knowing it will decrease over time.
Memories of a Deceased Loved One
Holidays can be a time when memories of loved ones you lost come back up. It is a time where often special memories occurred and you are likely to be reminded of those memories. This is a normal part of the grief process. Dealing with memories of a deceased loved one is one of the challenges you can learn to cope with during the holidays.
Coping with Grief of a Loved One During the Holidays
Create boundaries when you are going to events that you don’t feel like or may feel challenged by. Some of these boundaries can involve picking an endpoint when you are going to leave or avoiding certain aspects of gatherings.
Honor Your Loved One
Find a way to honor your loved one, some ideas are:
- displaying a photograph where everyone can see it.
- an empty seat at the table.
- a moment of silence before a meal.
- donations made in your loved one’s name.
- volunteering somewhere that would mean something to them.
- get creative with personalized ideas.
- Share memories
Practice Self-Compassion and Self-Care
Be gentle with yourself and make sure you take the time to take care of yourself.
Decide What You Can Handle
This may mean going to fewer events or skipping events you used to attend.
Make New Traditions
Figure out new ways to celebrate the holidays.
Find ways to connect with others, even if it is different than previous years.
The holidays can seem lonely for people who have a small social circle can suffer from their loneliness as they see other people getting together with close loved ones but they don’t have people to gather with. Loneliness is one of the challenges you can learn to cope with during the holidays.
Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays
Remember that You’re Not Alone
It’s OK to feel isolated during the holidays, and you are not alone. Talking to others who share similar experiences (either via the Internet or in person) can make you feel less alone in your situation.
Reach Out to People Around You
If you feel isolated, make it a priority to work on your relationships with others. Whether it means exchanging friendly words with people you come across or connecting with friends or family. Connecting with others strengthens bonds and can help you feel less lonely.
Focus on taking special care of yourself. Take time to engage in healthy habits like physical activity, getting enough sleep, and eating nutritiously. Engage in activities that you enjoy. Good self-care habits will keep you entertained and boost your mood.
Redefine Your Expectations
Many people have high expectations for this time of year. Popular culture portrays the holiday season as synonymous with spending time with close family, friends, and romantic partners. Focus on the good things you have in your life instead of comparing yourself to how you think others are spending the holidays.
Give Back to Your Community
Volunteering to support a cause you believe in is a great way to feel less lonely during the holidays (or any other time). Helping others who are less fortunate can remind you of all you have to be grateful for and leave you with a sense of love and appreciation for yourself.
The holidays can be hard and challenging when you have challenges that run counter to the general emotions of the season. There are ways to cope with challenges during the holidays. The most important part is to find the strategies and tools that work best for you.
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