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  • Spending the Holidays Alone

    The holidays are a really big deal for a lot of people.  The world is inundated with messages everywhere that this is the happiest, jolliest time of the year and that these festive days are best spent surrounded by one’s large family.  But what if your situation doesn’t look like that? There could be a myriad of reasons: relationship changes, work, finances or personal preference, just to name a few.  So how is one to navigate this peppermint-laden, bauble-encrusted path alone?

    First and foremost, let it be said that you are free to feel all the feelings you want and need to feel.  Happy to not have to deal with your mother’s non-stop matchmaking? Great! Sad to not be seeing your nieces and nephews? Feel that sadness! Cry if you want to! No one is saying to put on a happy face and stuff down all your feelings about the holidays.  There are some steps that can be taken, though, to try and help you through what many find to be an upsetting and difficult event.

    A major step is deciding how you would like to spend the holiday.  Staying home? Or perhaps making an escape somewhere whether it’s to a rented cottage in the mountains or a swanky Air B&B in the city of your choice.  Once that is decided, work out not only a Plan A but Plans B and C, as well.  Emotions can be such fickle creatures and as much as we may think we have a solid game plan, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for a change in feelings. No one thinks clearly when upset so it helps to have these plans made ahead of time when calm and in a positive frame of mind.  This eliminates the need for thinking when a rough patch hits.  Instead, one can more easily shift from one plan to another.

    So, as you consider your potential game plans, let’s look at a few things:

    • Are there traditions that you want to keep or are you looking to create new traditions? Perhaps a mix of the two? If it’s not Christmas without ham for dinner, then, by all means, have ham for dinner.  Whether it’s one you prepare yourself or part of a pre-prepared meal you purchase, there is an option out there for you.  On the other hand, if you could do without the turkey/ham/roast and would prefer to order in pizza, go for it! No judgment here.  This is your holiday.  Let’s say that, again.  You have full control of your holiday.   Perhaps you’d like to start a new tradition or two.  What does that look like for you? A few ideas might be making an annual Christmas ornament, diving into a new book or writing out New Year’s cards.
    • Self-care. Throughout this whole time, including both the planning and celebrating, please remember to continue with at least your basic level of self-care.  This would include healthy meals, hydration and exercise.  If you are able, try adding in some extra self-care.  Whether it’s adding in a weekly face mask or opting for a full-on premium day of self-care on the holiday itself, this is another great option to help us through the holidays.  Self-care can show up in so many forms such as premium body and skin care products, fancy chocolates that you’d never purchase at any other time of the year or actually using that leather bound journal with the oh-so-thick paper you bought yourself.

    A quick word about boundaries, which falls under the self-care umbrella: Healthy boundaries apply 24/7, including all holidays and days off.  If you are having any Zoom/Face Time chats or phone calls with family and friends on the holiday, you are encouraged and supported in maintaining those boundaries.  Feel free to get off the call if Mom continues to bemoan her lack of grandchildren or your Uncle starts in on politics.  And if someone calls with whom you don’t want to speak, voice mail is a wonderful thing.

    • Music/TV/movies. Media can be a great distraction for all. It has the power to soothe, distract and uplift.  It can encourage emotional release and the release of dopamine and serotonin, chemicals in the brain that affect feelings of pleasure, wellbeing and happiness.  What do you think will work best for you at this time? Are certain shows or songs a must to be included? Whether it’s watching all the holiday movies or avoiding Christmas carols at all costs, you’ll be in a better position if you queue up your preference ahead of time.  Again, this is about looking for ideas that will help you when you may not be feeling your best.  By setting up playlists ahead of time, you’re able to just hit “play” and not have to give it much thought.  Not sure how you might be feeling? Go ahead and create several playlists or scroll through Netflix and see what’s available ahead of time.
    • Treating yourself. It’s not the holidays without a few gifts, right? And that doesn’t change just because one is celebrating solo.  What would be meaningful to you? Making some purchases ahead of time and having them wrapped and waiting under the tree? Or maybe a little online retail therapy will help ease things on the holiday itself.  And let’s not forget, sometimes the biggest way to treat oneself is by helping others.  Perhaps making a charitable contribution will help soothe your soul.  If a more budget-friendly idea is needed, perhaps volunteering your time with a charitable organization is an option.  Volunteering is another way to release endorphins, by the way.

    As was said earlier, this is your holiday. You’re in charge of the narrative and you have the opportunity to choose a positive one even if spending the holidays alone is not your first choice.  A wide range of suggestions has been presented to get your creative juices flowing.  The core idea, however, remains the same for everyone: make a plan ahead of time that incorporates the must-haves and leaves off the must-nots.  You may never enjoy spending the holidays alone but that doesn’t mean they have to be awful, either.  Who knows? You may even find it’s not so bad, after all.



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