The holiday season can be difficult as this is the time where financial difficulties are highlighted, the loss of loved-ones causes grief, added stress of family travel may cause unpleasant feelings, and trying to decorate the house all create a rapidly growing to-do list that potentially turns such a festive activity into a daunting task. It’s important to take time for mental health as well (oh great, another thing to add to my to-do list).
Holiday burn-out is so real, and I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to happen. It’s okay to say no to the PTO mom begging you to sign up to be a server at the soup kitchen two days before Christmas. It’s also okay to not buy your child that brand-new-whatever that they want so badly but would break your bank. You’re not a bad parent for not donating time you don’t have, time that takes away from your own family, or because you can’t afford the latest trend your kid will use for a week and then get sick of. You’re a good parent, and your fear of saying no won’t make or break that. Say no a hundred times, you’ll still be a good parent. Say yes a hundred times, you’re still a good parent, just a very tired, very burned-out parent.
Going home for the holidays is supposed to be a joyous event, but for some, there isn’t a family to go home to. Then for some, the family they’d be going home to isn’t a healthy one. If you live out of town from your family, or if you’re a college student staying in the dorms, it’s okay not to go home if home isn’t a happy place. It’s perfectly okay to say no to Aunt Mary who is just going to bash your sexuality all throughout the main course, it’s okay not to spend time with your cousins who are all doctors while you’re still a liberal arts major figuring it out or a barista content with your life. By no means are you required to put yourself in an unhealthy position. Feel free to see if some of your other friends are feeling the same way, and potentially have a holiday meal with them. Consider all options for your own happiness, even if it means sticking it out yourself. Sometimes allowing yourself to take a break, and focusing on being healthy is better than putting yourself in a toxic environment. It’s perfectly acceptable to give yourself permission to do what’s in your best interest. Family is family, sure, but that doesn’t override your right to a healthy and happy holiday season.
Far too often the feeling of holiday cheer is magnified and transformed into guilt. Such guilt may even make us feel like we aren’t good enough, which is just simply not true. We are good enough. We help others all year, we take care of our kids, try hard in school, earn our wages, and none of that should be valued less due to Santa being in town. You shouldn’t have to feel guilty that you can’t afford expensive presents due to the fact your ticket home took all of your savings. You also shouldn’t feel guilty if you choose to limit your time with your family to only the meal because you can’t bare the criticism.
We don’t all have perfect families, and many times the holiday season can be more stressful than it’s worth. The holidays can also be a lonely and sad time for many. Be sure to check in on your loved ones, make sure they’re okay, not just physically but mentally as well. At times, the best gift you can give, is a conversation.
So allow your daughter to bring her girlfriend to Christmas and tell Aunt Mary to take a hike. A relationship with family is more important than opinions on who your child is dating (let’s face it, no one is good enough for your baby). So don’t volunteer at the soup kitchen two days before Christmas if it’s going to add more stress making the holiday less enjoyable (but do find another time for volunteering after the holidays are over). Teach your children to be grateful for what they have and that presents aren’t important (or just blame Santa for forgetting to bring that new-whatever).
However you handle the holidays, try to do it in a way that won’t leave you wishing they were over. Remember the magic of the holidays, and how cool it can be to sit down with grandpa and listen to the stories he’s got to tell. Give yourself permission to enjoy Christmas and New Year’s and spend time with family (if that makes you happy), because that’s what Christmas is supposed to be about. We always say that Christmas isn’t about the presents, it’s about family and friends, and if that’s really true, then those stressors you’re feeling should be second string. There is no wrong or right answer to how you choose to partake in the holiday season. With that being said, I invite you to spend the holidays in a way that’s most healthy for you; physically and mentally.