When the Holidays Aren’t Happy

Sad cookie holidays christmas.1

>>Sad cookie holidays christmasThe first warning was a sign in front of Wal-Mart: “45 Days until Christmas” in large block letters, held up by a happy penguin.

I dropped my shopping list and ran back to my car, mascara running down my cheeks.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. The warning signs were all there. Chief among them the fact that time keeps on moving. Christmas comes every 365 days, whether I like it or not. And when it seems like it’s been more time than not since bells rang and wrapping paper filled the store aisles, then it’s probably that time of year again.

But still, seeing that happy penguin hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’m no Grinch. I want people to have happy holidays. I love the wonder in my kids’ eyes when they open gifts, and I enjoy seeing the spirit of the holidays in my neighbors as they help those in need with food drives or packages sent to our military workers overseas.

I just wish all of that festive joy could happen while I’m frozen into cryogenic stasis. I want to fast forward from the week before Thanksgiving to the one right after New Year’s. And I know I’m not the only one. The reasons could be many — missing family members, tough economic times, broken hearts — but for a lot of people, the holidays just aren’t that happy.

Do you have a friend who seems less merry and bright than usual? Is that “friend” actually you? Try not to judge harshly. Here’s a few tips from one curmudgeon to another on how to make it through another festive season without letting your glum spirits drag down those around you.

  1. Make a plan. Today it’s 25 days until Christmas. Think of ways you can pass the time in a non-festive way. Take up a new hobby like knitting or glass blowing and throw your energy into that. Not into hobbies? There are about 500 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. Just sayin’.
  2. Pick and choose. Maybe there are parts of the holidays that you really love. I happen to like luminaria, the practice of lighting candles in white bags and lining the streets. I’ll go see luminaria in a nearby neighborhood while skipping out on mall Santas. You don’t have to see the holidays as one monolithic creation, to be taken on all-or-nothing basis. Indulge in what you like and take a pass on the rest.
  3. Help your neighbors. Giving always feels good. You don’t have to participate in a holiday-specific charity drive, either. Find programs that winterize the homes of those in need, or one that provides company to lonely seniors. You will never regret sharing your love and/or resources.
  4. Hibernate. Make like a bear and take to your shelter. You don’t need to go to the mall or to Wal-Mart! Shop online when possible. Indulge in grocery delivery or take-out food. Lure your friends to your nest with promises of fun and fellowship, and celebrate them instead of a season that bums you out. Your friends will understand, I promise.
  5. Seek help. The holidays can be a terrible time for some people. Right now is the perfect time to go find a new mental health professional, if you’ve been considering therapy or meds. Don’t wait until a crisis. If you know the holidays are tough, lay in your support structure now, BEFORE you start crying in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

If the winter holidays aren’t your cup of tea, how do you pass the time? Do you have any advice for folks spending the season alone, or somewhere new? Share with us in comments or on Facebook.

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