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Permission to Cancel the Holidays

Ah, holidays.

Family. Friends. Giving. Celebration.

Chaos. Mega Emotions. Grief. Stress.

I imagine there are some people in the world who find the holiday season to be one of pure delight and cheerfulness and joy.

I’d like to meet those people some day and learn their secret 🙂

In my experience, personally and professionally, this season tends to range from emotional hell at worst to a simple mixed blessing/stressor at best.

Over the years of my own working through of the holidays and supporting clients through theirs, I’ve learned a few things to make it less emotional hell and more a mixed blessing.

1. Breathe

When things don’t go as planned or expected (and they won’t), stop and breathe before moving forward. Do that same through those, ah, delightful family interactions and financial stressors and moments of overwhelm and the pain of grief.

Slow and deep. Over and over until whatever emotion has popped up returns to a manageable level.

Breathing enables us to stay engaged with ourselves and allow not just the difficult emotions to be present, but also the positive.

2. Lean on your peeps

Maybe it’s your partner. Or a close friend. Or maybe a family member. Or a counselor or coach. Several of the above if you’re lucky.

When things feel wonky or emotional or stressful, allow yourself to reach out and lean on them. Talk, vent, cry, laugh – whatever you need. Let them support you through your challenging moments and offer them support through theirs.

Over the years, I’ve found that folks who reach out for support during this time do better. It might be tough but they stay engaged and feel lightered once the holidays have passed. Those who shut down and struggle through often end up in my office emotionally battered, overstressed, and broken down in January.

3. If all else fails, cancel the holidays

The truth is if the holidays are especially difficult or painful, you don’t have to engage in them.
You have complete and utter permission to skip the holidays. Say no to holiday events, skip gift giving and card sending, stay home, and do whatever the hell works for you. Yes, that even means saying no to family gatherings or visits.

Usually when I tell people this, they come back with lots of reasons why they “can’t”.

So-and-so family member will be upset.

This person will be disappointed.

I couldn’t possibly skip XX event, so-and-so will get mad at me.

I don’t have a choice, I have to go/do/participate.

Well, I call bullshit on all those excuses. Sure, deciding to break the “rules” for the holidays and doing what feels right and good for you might disappoint or upset some of those around you – but you still have the choice to do so. Remember, their disappointment and upset is their responsibility, not yours.

If engaging in the holiday hubaloo makes you feel awful and unhappy, you don’t have to.

It might be a bit uncomfortable, but it is possible and your choice.

Do what feels good and right and self-nurturing to yourself this holiday season. Let go of expectations of how it “should” be and just let it be.

The holiday season might not be “the most wonderful season of all” for all of us – but it can have some wonder and peace and self-love for any of us.


P.S. If you don’t feel like you have the support you need in your life, please get in touch. I’ve got several options that might work for you!

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