The holidays aren’t for everyone. If you find yourself perpetually disappointed by the happiest time of the year, it might not be your fault. Much as we’d like to spend this time of the year celebrating friends, family and all that good stuff, the holidays can also serve as a reminder for all that’s not right in our lives. Maybe you aren’t very happy at the moment, and maybe there’s good reason for that.
Holidays can be a particularly awkward juncture for those of us who are single or don’t get along with the extended (or nuclear) family. Where to go? What to do? How to take one’s mind off the envious fact that everyone else seems so absurdly pleased with their lives?
For starters, know this: you are not alone. Even BuzzFeed feels your pain.
There are plenty of people out there who are less than enthused about the holiday season. It can be expensive. It can be inconvenient. It can be uncomfortable. It can be downright intolerable. Many of us feel left behind by the festivities, and that’s perfectly acceptable.
After all, holidays have largely been coopted by all manner of corporate interests looking to capitalize on Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays and all the other days in between. It’s a spectacle of consumerism through and through, and none of us has any obligation to partake.
All the same, you probably don’t want to feel miserable over the holidays. That would mean letting them win! It’s time to fight the holiday power, and we’re busting out five tips for preserving your sanity amid utterly insane times.
Find Someone to Share Your Suffering
Taking the anti-social route to the extreme can just reinforce everything you hate about the holidays. Everyone else is celebrating with friends, family and significant others—and you find yourself alone in your misery. Find someone who understands, perhaps even someone who sees eye-to-eye with you when it comes to holiday hating.
You don’t have to turn yourself into a Debbie-Downer. Constant complaining—during any time of the year—can turn people off. But it can be reassuring to at least spend some time with someone who won’t interrogate you about what you’ve been up to for the last year. It can be nice to avoid the pointless family reunion small-talk and just enjoy a friend or co-worker’s company here and there.
Note that it’s not necessary to spend the holiday itself with anyone in particular. Chances are most of your friends will have family obligations of their own unfortunately. If not, hit them up, though. The real point here is to ensure that you’re socializing a bit in December. Don’t become so distraught that you adopt a bunker mentality and shun the rest of the world. Part of that world understands where you’re coming from and would love to just hang out.
Don’t Get Guilted
If you find yourself traveling and/or spending time with certain people due to a sense of obligation, you’re almost certain to regret it. You’ll walk into said situation with a bad attitude, and it’s destined to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We rarely like things that we don’t first want to like, and that can doom various social or familial gatherings from the outset.
This is something to be particularly mindful of when guilt is the lone thing compelling you to attend that family get-together. Send your regards. Send your love. Maybe even send a gift. Just don’t send yourself—unless you absolutely want to. Nothing will feed your holiday bitterness like a gathering gone wrong. It will inevitably remind you of all the reasons you hate the holidays.
Remember that you didn’t choose your family, and you certainly didn’t choose your significant other’s family. They may be great people; they may be awful people. Either way, you don’t have to like spending time with them. Shunning these occasions doesn’t make you a bad person.
Don’t Let the Hate Mail Get to You
Okay, it’s not really hate mail. The cheery postcards from long-lost families mean well, probably anyway. Sarah Thebarge was more skeptical in her 2014 piece for the Huffington Post.
“Let’s just call them what they are, okay?” writes Thebarge. “Those Christmas postcards are not about holiday greetings; they’re about subtle bragging rights for couples and families.”
Whatever the intent, they’re obnoxious in a big way. Congratulations that your life appears to be going so perfectly by the looks of a lone photograph and the written newsletter/update that may come therewith. If I didn’t ask, I probably don’t want to know.
There’s an easy way to cope with these postcards from hell. Just reimagine all the un-pictured scenes from that family’s life—the unenvious compromises, the conflict, the lives that will never be the same on account of those ‘adorable’ children. Sure, it’s a bit cynical. But it also serves as a reminder that no one has the perfect life—no matter how hard some try to pretend otherwise.
Explore Where It May Come From
No, really. Sure, it sounds like psycho-babble, but there’s something to be said for better understanding why you really dislike the holidays. Dr. Ann Becker-Schutte suggests that we all have different reasons for hating the holidays, and identifying those reasons can help us strategize appropriate solutions.
“Once you have identified more clearly what makes the holidays hard, you can focus your coping and self-care around that issue,” writes Becker-Schutte. “If the hardest part of the holidays is your family time, look for ways that either reduce family time or counterbalance it. If you struggle with the commercialization and the pressure to ‘buy, buy, buy,’ maybe you can cut down on your gifts or focus on gifts with meaning.”
Put simply, there’s no one-size-fits-all policy for those of us who eschew the holidays. We all have our backstories, and it’s important that we come to terms with them.
One of the hardest parts of the holidays may be all that time off. While vacation time always sounds like a great idea on face, it can be a double-edged sword. Suddenly you find yourself essentially forced into doing things that are out of your norm. Much as we complain about those daily 9-to-5 jobs, they’re a source of stability in our lives.
So look for a new routine during the holidays, especially if you’re uninterested in participating in the holiday itself. It might mean taking up a new (or old) hobby. It might be doing some extra work for your job. It could even mean treating yourself to something of a stay-cation, where you just chill out and play some video games or take in some sports. There’s no right or wrong answer here. The key is finding some regularity amid an utterly irregular season.
These kind of solutions won’t fundamentally change your feelings about the holidays. Only you can do that. These are coping mechanisms, ways to endure. No one deserves to be deeply unhappy on a yearly basis, and rest assured that there are certainly a few ways out.