How to Handle Holiday Stress

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a cumulonimbus cloud of holiday stress, grief, sadness, and fear to illustrate how to handle holiday depression.
This is supposed to be a time of joy. Miracles. Magic. But for some of us the holidays are like dark cumulonimbus clouds gusting with severe turbulence, powerful updrafts and downdrafts, lightning, thunder, and large flying lumps of hail. It’s a season of stress. Sadness. And maybe even fear. It feels like something big is going to happen.

It’s not like anything has to happen at all. If you don’t want to face the festivities you can treat yourself like you have a cold: acknowledge your pain and pamper it. Curl up in a cozy blanket with a good book or a movie. Take a long nap. Have tea and cinnamon toast. If you tell people you have a cold they gratefully accept your regrets for not showing up and sharing. And those who love you might understand if you tell them the truth: holidays hurt and you just don’t want to do them this year.

No one needs to do the regular holiday routine, the shopping, decorating, baking, gifting, … partying. On these shortest, darkest, coldest days and longest nights of the year, go easy on yourself. Give yourself permission to opt out of the whirlwind of activity. Find what brings you comfort. What will give you peace, or some small private joy?

Have a Blue Christmas. Buy a box of chocolates just for you. Light all the Chanukah candles at once and plant them in the snow. Write a letter to someone you miss. Get out to see the stars, a sunrise or sunset. Sit with a ninety-five-year old. Watch a sleeping newborn. Give a dog a belly-rub. Take a walk in the dark with a friend and flashlights. Clean out the household catch-all drawer. Help serve food at a local soup kitchen. Or stay in bed with a hot water bottle. Celebrate whatever and whenever you get inspired.

So let the holidays begin. And when they get to be too much, do them Your Way.


What would you do on your ideal holiday?

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3 thoughts on “How to Handle Holiday Stress

  1. Pingback: Expectations | ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE - EVEN JOY

  2. Elaine Mansfield

    Thank you, Robin. I can only figure out what I want to do this difficult time of year in hindsight–by seeing what I did do. I bought fewer gifts and gave bigger donations this year. I made soup and other foods to freeze ahead so we’d have a head start for precious holiday meals. (David and Liz arrive this evening and Anthony and Jenna are in CA.) I planned time for Virginia, Vic’s mom, and declined going to the health aides’ Christmas party with 5 aides and all the old ladies they care for. Just too much. And now I’m trying to be quiet, do a little reading–and of course my computer is hassling me, but maybe I have it. On the bright side, the days will get longer, we’ll survive whatever happens in DC until we don’t, and we’ll hang a few solstice/Christmas lights. I did that, too, in a shorthand sort of way. Blessed Solstice to you, Robin. May you have good cheer.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I hope your holiday was magnificent, Elaine. How could it not be, when surrounded by your beautiful family? Bright sides and dark sides to everything. But with love and a little quiet time, and being able to figure out how to shut out some of the unnecessary stuff, it can end up in peaceful time. Wishing you a sweet new year.


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