The holiday season is supposed to be a time when we're filled with cheer and overflowing with goodwill toward others. But what do you do when you're — secretly — plagued with the holiday blues? Here are some tips for breaking free of that dread and making the holidays fun again.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
It's okay if you don't feel like celebrating! In fact, you're not alone. For many, the hype of the holiday season is a cover for intense pain and loneliness. How would it feel if, instead of pretending, you acknowledged that the holidays are difficult for you? Go ahead and try it. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to sing along with the holiday tunes, try saying, "This stinks because it's not what I wanted, and I don't feel like celebrating." Releasing the pressure society puts on us to enjoy the holiday season can actually free us to discover those holiday traditions that hold meaning.
Do What You Enjoy
What are the traditions that you especially enjoy? See if you can come up with a list of three things that you look forward to doing during the holiday season. Ask each of your children to do the same thing, and over a period of weeks, try to incorporate some of these activities. Imagine what the holidays might feel like if you did only those things that are really important to you, and you just threw the others "out the window." It might be really liberating! Who said you have to hang lights or decorate a Christmas tree?
As long as you and your children focus on those aspects of the holiday that are most meaningful to you, you'll build a history of traditions and memories that are precious.
Try Something New
What is one thing you've always wanted to do during the holidays, but you've never done? Maybe you've always wanted to sing in a choir or make stockings for the kids. Maybe there was a time when you dreamed of painting ceramic ornaments for the tree or participating in a live nativity. Letting yourself experience something you've always wanted to do can be a small, yet powerful, way of validating your own identity and celebrating your unique self during the holiday season.
Give to Others
One of the very best ways to move beyond your own loneliness at the holidays is to give your time and resources to someone else in need. Spend a Saturday morning serving food at a local soup kitchen, or help Toys for Tots sort and deliver children's gifts. There are many ways to volunteer with your kids, too, which is a wonderful way to teach them what it really means to give. Visit the United Way's Volunteer Solutions Web site to learn about volunteer opportunities in your area.
Take Care of Yourself
One thing that we often overlook during the holidays is simply taking care of ourselves. When we're overtired, we're more susceptible to depression and anxiety. You can combat this before the holidays arrive by making the time to take care of your own personal needs. Ask yourself what you need right now. Do you need to set more definitive boundaries with your children at bedtime? Do you need to get a babysitter and plan an occasional outing with some friends? Do you need to begin looking for a single parents support group in your area?
Tending to these needs will equip you with energy and spirit as you move forward through this holiday season.