Hate The Holidays? Here Are 8 Ways to Cope and Find Joy This Year
By Morgan Mandriota
The holidays are hyped up to be “the most wonderful time of the year.” And for some, they are. But the pressure to be merry and jolly alongside the rest of the world becomes extra heavy when you feel anything but that.
For me, each holiday season carries the weight of childhood drama, stress, and sadness. As I share my experiences with others, I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this feeling. I’ve heard countless stories from folks who have lost loved ones, experienced trauma, and felt something other than happiness, like grief or winter depression.
Studies conducted in Japan, America, and all over the world suggest that suicide rates are higher during certain holidays (like New Year’s Day) than other days of the year as well.
No matter which holiday you celebrate or which unpleasant memories resurface around this time, end-of-year dread is more common than you might think.
But I don’t want to be a Grinch anymore. That’s become a bigger priority this year now that I’m dating someone who embodies the sweet holiday-loving spirit of Buddy the Elf.
Although I hope his joy will magically rub off on me, I know it’s not that simple. I can’t just snap my fingers and change how I’ve felt for as long as I can remember.
So, what can people like me do to stop hating the holidays? How can we rewrite our narrative to create happier memories going forward?
Here are eight ways to start leaning into the joy of the holiday season.
Identify your triggers
“A hate or dislike for holidays usually comes from some connected source or trauma,” says Oddesty K. Langham, MS, LPC, NCC, licensed clinical mental health therapist practicing in Alabama.
She notes that potential sources include:
- poor relationships with family
- individuals at social gatherings who make you feel uncomfortable
- dissatisfaction with where you currently are in life
- feeling anxious about the possibility of someone asking you uneasy questions
- unresolved issues from your past that may come up in certain settings
“While it’s absolutely possible to stop feeling what you feel about the holidays and be happier moving forward, it’ll take you healing from the deeper concerns or issues in order to get to a better place and move forward,” Langham says.
Take care of yourself
It’s easy to get caught up thinking about everyone else during the holidays. But you’re important, too.
“One of the most helpful things we can do during difficult times is to treat ourselves with genuine kindness and caring,” says psychotherapist Stephanie Longtain, LCSW, who practices in Houston.
So, try taking a step back to prioritize your well-being in order to restore and refresh your energy.
You can practice self-love and engage in self-care activities, like:
Connect with loved ones
If you can, try spending time with people who make you smile, laugh, and feel loved — whether that’s your family, friends, kids, partner, or someone else.
Langham reminds us that you can also “bring along a support person (e.g., a friend or significant other) to help you feel more comfortable in whatever environment you will be in.”
Can’t physically be with your loved ones this year? Longtain recommends setting up a phone or video call.
“If you don’t have family or have a poor relationship with your family, try to connect with your friends,” she says. (Think: throwing a party or being a plus-one to a friend’s event.) “If you don’t have friends, maybe try to volunteer or give back [to] your community.”
Remember that holidays are temporary
The holiday season can feel like it lasts forever when you don’t enjoy it. But Langham reminds us that each holiday is just another day on the calendar.
“While we tend to make a big deal out of them in the United States, remembering the fact that these same days may not even be acknowledged in other countries may help to take some of the pressure off,” she says.
Just because they’re temporary doesn’t mean that they’re any less hard to deal with, of course. But this reframe might help to relieve some stress.