Christmas is in two days. Chanukah is upon us. We’re officially in the thick of the holidays.
I want to take this time to say something that’s not talked about enough: it’s ok to not be happy during the holidays.
There are a ton of reasons someone would feel triggered by this time of year. Maybe the holidays remind you of a loved one you lost or those you’re not able to see. Perhaps you’re stressed out like I am. There are so many gifts to buy, outings to plan, expectations to meet.
Then there’s the added pressure of people expecting you to be happy, no matter your circumstances. So the guilt of being sad ensues, and you find yourself in a vicious cycle of the holiday blues.
But you’re not a robot. The holidays don’t magically press pause on your worries, sadness, and stresses.
It’s ok to be sad.
If there’s one thing I learned from trying to overcompensate for my depression, it’s that trying to act happy makes you even sadder. Mustering up emotions you don’t have, acting like everything is cool, makes things a whole lot worse when the party is over. It’s emotionally draining, and I say you’re better off not acting happy.
There’s no need to be a Grinch, but there’s also no need to try to act like everything is ok.
If you are feeling the same holiday blues, try these coping strategies. Hopefully, they make your holidays a bit more manageable:
You can go for a walk.
Getting outside means fresh air and escaping your family. There’s nothing wrong with a mid-day stroll. Take some time to yourself to breathe, think, or not think.
You’re not required to spend every waking moment with family.
You can opt to pet the dog instead.
Don’t want to listen to Aunt Karen prod at your love life? Go hang out with the family dog instead.
Bonus: offer to take said dog for a walk! You’ll get outside and look like a saint for offering to do something the owners probably forgot.
You can say no.
Charades? No thanks.
Christmas movie? No thanks.
Looking at Uncle Tom’s photos from his trip to Alaska? Say you have to go to the bathroom (which means No thanks).
You’re allowed to say no, which includes saying no to invites altogether.
You can volunteer part of the day.
Don’t want to spend the whole day with your family — or any of it? Opt to volunteer your time instead. It’ll help you get out of your head, and it’ll feel good to give your time to bettering your community.
Plus, how can your family protest you volunteering?
You can rest assured most people aren’t as jolly as they seem.
No one talks about it, but people are much more stressed than they come off. I know not everyone is like this, but the overly cheery ones are usually hiding something.
I find that when I remind myself that people usually present the happiest version of themselves, I feel a bit better. You’re not alone. You’re just the brave enough to feel your emotions.
While I hope your holidays are the best they can be, it’s ok if they’re not. It’s an irrational belief that everyone is capable of feeling jolly at the same time each year.
Prioritize yourself, first and foremost. Your well-being is what’s most important.