Disclaimer: If you LOVE this time of year and are perfectly happy, this article is not for you. (With loving kindness, enjoy the season and pass along to a friend who is a little grinchy.)
What would it mean if you truly believed and felt that you could make the winter and holiday season different this time around?
What if you didn't feel obligated to do things you didn't want to do, go places you preferred not to go, or didn't have that dark cloud of existential dread that this time of year can bring?
What if, for once, you did not have to brace yourself?
The "Holiday Season" can bring up a lot of feelings related to trauma, grief, expectations, pressure, and anxiety. If you experienced a loss or trauma around this time of year, you may notice feeling more irritable, tired, sad, or having difficulty concentrating. If your past holiday experiences has included feeling obligated to cater to family and friends by over spending on gifts, traveling from place to place, or putting up with weird Uncle Joe's vibes or your mother's drama, you are not alone. This time of year, particularly if you live in an area that gets cold and dark in November through February, can stir up a lot of hard emotions and seasonal depression. That, coupled with two years of a pandemic, can be a recipe for a really difficult time.
With so many factors that are outside of your control, what can you do to change things up this year so that this year feels better (or the very least, more tolerable)? Maybe this is a change in routine, tradition, practice, set of beliefs.
Whatever makes your insides cringe the most during the holidays, I want you to start there.
I want you to believe and know that you can take conscious action towards creating a different experience. My hope for you is that in some small (or radically big) way that you can start to change the script.
Go off book. Be the plot twist.
Stop playing the part that was assigned to you and you never really enjoyed anyways.
Here are 10 Ways You Can Change It Up This Holiday Season
1) Instead of cooking a meal, order take out from your favorite place and drive to the beach to watch the sunset. If its cold, stay bundled up in your car. If its warm, make it a picnic.
2) If you usually despise holiday decorations, do the opposite of emotions and actually decorate your office or home. Ask friends to donate some of their extra décor or go to the dollar store if you do not want to invest the money. See what the hype is all about. Hell, buy some dorky matching Christmas pajamas for you and your partner (or pet if you don't have a partner). Drink coffee out of a "I love Christmas" mug and laugh at the irony every morning.
3) Accept an invite from a family or friend that you usually decline.
4) Conversely, decline an invite and say "I am changing it up this year a bit and will be unable to attend."
5) Sign up for that 5k or pole class you told yourself you could never do. Bonus points if you find a buddy to help keep each other motivated.
6) Create a stellar playlist that makes you laugh, cry, and feel all the feels. Go on a long drive with the windows down and belt your heart out. Turn up the heat and wear a hat if its cold. Windows down is a whole new vibe.
7) Get yourself into therapy to work through what you have been avoiding. The time is now and you deserve the space and compassion to get some relief.
8) Have a movie marathon wearing a snuggie and eat your favorite desserts.
9) Visit a smash room/rage room where you can discharge emotions and anger you may be holding onto. (For my CT folx, check out Let's Smash CT in Rocky Hill, CT!)
10) Rent an Air BnB or hotel room for a night or two to geographically get away from what you need space from. Pack a good book. Meet up with a friend for dinner if you want. Explore a new place.
11) Do it all sober. See what happens when you allow yourself to feel everything that comes up. Surprise yourself that you are actually a good time without alcohol.
12) Do something in honor of a loved one. Visit their favorite place or do their favorite activity. Share and talk about favorite memories of them and eat one of their favorite meals.
13) With mental health being more accessible than ever due to telehealth, join an online support group that resonates with you.
14) Rent a karaoke machine and have a few friends over for a sing and dance party. Costumes, boas, hats and wigs are bonus points.
15) Volunteer your time and/or resources. Get outside of your own pain by alleviating someone else's hardship. Send care packages to military overseas. Make meals for those in need (check out LasangaLove.org). Help out at a local animal shelter or farm. Help clean up public trails or parks with a group. Collect toys from your neighborhood and deliver to Toys for Tots. Have food delivered to your local hospital professionals.
My hope for you this holiday season is that you can make it your own and that you don't feel like a slave to traditions or past trauma. My hope is that you take risks and see what works. My hope for you is that you don't fold into yourself this time. That you say "No" and you say "Yes."
Wherever you are, I am rooting for you.
High Fives and Hell Yeahs,