You-Don’t-Have-To-Be-Happy Holidays

Ten ways to cope if the holiday season is hard for you.

If you just want to ignore the holiday.

Have a summer party

I mean, we can’t exactly party right now. But you can do this alone or with the folks you live with. Turn up the heat, put on your Hawaiian shirt, and sip on some lemonade. Pandora has channels for Americana or a Luau, or create your playlist of summer vibes.

Book a gig

AS a singer, I often find myself booked on or around holidays. If you can’t visit family, you might as well make some money. Check with your job to see if you can make time-and-a-half working, or book a gig specifically for the holiday. If you set your own hours, take another day off to do whatever you’d like, then work through the holiday.

If you want to celebrate, but you can’t do what you normally would.

Decorate your bedroom

This is the opposite of the above. Instead of escaping the holiday, fully embrace it. Decorate your bedroom and office so that no matter where you are, it feels like the holiday season. My bedroom is decorated in silver, gray, and white Christmas items so it looks like a winter wonderland when I wake up and as I fall asleep. It is the best time of quarantine so far.

Make a list of what you CAN do

This year is so full of cannot, and the holiday season is no different. Make a list of all the things you can do related to the holiday season. Even when I was quarantining from the people who live in the same house as me, I would go on drives at night to look at Christmas lights.

If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder

Go Outside

That sounds simple, but it’s true. One of the main causes of S.A.D. is that we don’t get the sunlight we’re used to. Even if it’s cold where you are, bundle up and go outdoors. Fresh air is still fresh even if it’s brisk.

Take a Morning Off

I really like time-management guru Laura Vanderkam. She has a daily five-minute podcast that I listen to. One of her quick tips is to take a mental health morning instead of a full day. If you work a 9-5 and suffer from S.A.D., then this can be a helpful solution. The sun is shining in the morning. You can sleep in and still experience sunlight. You can work out, or just have a lazy morning, and it doesn’t eat up a whole sick or personal day.

If your family is crazy.

Turn it into a game

Any time I have to deal with people or a situation that has historically caused me stress, I try to turn it into a game. Imagine you have a bingo card (or really make one if you dare!) that lists all of the problematic behaviors you are likely to encounter. Uncle Al drinks too much and insults you? Cousin Rick mansplains your job? Everyone asks you when you’re going to get married/have a baby? Put it on the bingo card.

This helps me in three ways.

  • First, it helps me manage my expectations. People are who they are, and they will do what they do.
  • Second, it turns the annoying behaviors into tokens of the experience, you may almost look forward to the drama.
  • Finally, it also helps me to not take what other people do personally. They aren’t attacking me, they are just acting out patterns so ingrained that they are predictable.

Set boundaries

Set boundaries, but the catch is to set boundaries with yourself. Not because you need to be controlled, but because you are the only thing you can control. These boundaries should be compassionate. Limit time you spend interacting with difficult family members. Set a budget for gift-buying so you have enough money for your own expenses. Don’t answer the phone unless you’re in the right headspace to talk to your relatives.

If you love the holidays, but you hate Covid

Craft a cute holiday mask

Lean in to the things that the pandemic has forced upon us. Get holiday stationary and stamps for sending letters, cards, and Christmas gifts. Get creative with your holiday mask. Learn how to make virtual backgrounds on Zoom. Play holiday tunes on instruments that don’t require your mouth and go socially-distant caroling. (I feel your pain, friends, I’m a professional singer).

Give

The holiday season is always a time of giving, and because past few months have been hard on everyone, whatever you have to give can go a really long way this year. Donate your money, time, or goods to people who need it. Some of my initial ideas are foodbanks, blood or plasma, or nonprofits. The performing arts are especially close to my heart, and that industry is really suffering.

Your feelings are valid.

Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean you have to be happy. You don’t have to celebrate. But you can, and in exactly the (safe) way that you choose, whether or not that meets other people’s expectations.

Either way, I wish you a peaceful and warm December.

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