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When the Holidays are Hard: 5 Tips for the Weary-Hearted

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

It is truly picturesque - warm fires going in the fireplaces, the smell of apple cider and fresh cookies, a beautifully decorated tree with presents underneath. Christmas, for many, is a restful, enjoyable time, where special memories are made. For many others, however, this season may be difficult. This could be due to a plethora of reasons, such as tight financial situations, family conflict, missing a loved one, and the need to meet society's strenuous expectations around what it means to celebrate Christmas. If this sounds familiar to you, take a breath, and know that while it is difficult, it is valid and understandable. Here are some quick tips for you as you walk through this upcoming holiday weekend.

#1 | Acknowledge & Validate Your Emotions

You may be hesitant to acknowledge, validate, and express how you feel about the holidays. Maybe you feel guilty for not gleefully feeling the holiday cheer, maybe what you are feeling is overwhelming you, causing you to push it down and ignore it. At times, our emotions can be daunting, and it is easier to try and pretend everything is “happy go lucky”. However, ignoring what we are feeling will only cause it to become worse over time. Take some time to explore what you are feeling. You do not have to worry about fixing how you are feeling, but be willing to bring it into the open and name it. Doing so will bring you to a place of acceptance in what you are feeling, and will help you plan ahead so you can care for yourself well. Remember, it can also be “both-and”, not “either-or” - for you, Christmas may be a special time you look forward to, while simultaneously a time of stress, anxiety, or grief.

#2 | Release Expectations

Nearly all of us will experience having a certain expectation for what will transpire over the holidays. And nearly all of us, when our expectations are not met, will be upset - from mild frustration to it being the last straw and pushing us over the edge. As you step into this season, take some time to evaluate the expectations you have. Ask yourself how feasible your expectations are, how realistic they are, and how practical they are. Can any of them be adapted, making them more likely to have the outcome you want? Will you be okay if an expectation does not play out according to plan? As you start to celebrate, try to find a healthy balance of setting plans, while also being aware that they may not pan out as you would like. Think back on a time when something did not go according to plan, but you still were happy with how it turned out. Remember that even if something changes, you may still enjoy the outcome.

#3 | Plan Ahead

Plan ahead for situations you will be facing, whether this is family gatherings, shopping trips, or work parties. Know what situations you may find challenging and be proactively in problem-solving. For example, maybe you have a family dinner each year, and the previous years have all included stressful topics. Maybe this year, you decide that if a certain topic is brought up, you will politely inform them that they either change the conversation or you will leave. You may have a work party this year and are wanting to limit your drinking. Try bringing non-alcoholic beverages with you, and bring a supportive friend or partner who will help keep you accountable. Whatever it may be, take time to ponder what situations may be tricky for you, and spend time brainstorming ways to meet your needs in a healthy manner.

#4 | Set Boundaries

Don’t be afraid to say no when you reach your limit. Remember, if you want to show up and be there for other people, you need to first show up and be there for yourself. Put boundaries in place that will keep you rested and protect your mental and physical health. This may look like limiting how much time you spend at parties, limiting how much food you sign up to bring to gatherings, and limiting how much time you spend shopping for presents. Know what boundaries you need to set in place, and give yourself permission to enforce them.

#5 | Practice Self-Care

Intentionally take time to practice good self-care. Make sure you are sleeping well, staying hydrated, and exercising as you are able. If you don’t already, try incorporating breathing exercises and meditation, which help in lowering stress levels, blood pressure, and heart rate, and increasing your sense of calmness. Take time to do activities that feed your soul, such as your favorite hobbies.

While it will not erase the more stressful and difficult aspects of this season, these tips will hopefully help you cope well with what you are experiencing. For more information, and a holiday survival guide worksheet, download our article “When the Holidays are Hard”, which is a more in-depth holiday survival guide (

Wishing you all the best this season.


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