The holidays are upon us but not everyone is feeling festive.  For many people, the holidays are a time for remembering the family you aren’t speaking to, finding yourself without a romantic partner for yet another year, or realizing you don’t have the money you were hoping to have for gifts or travel.  The amount of pressure on people to be happy and joyful can feel overwhelming and just one more thing to “fail” at.  From the music reminding us that being home for the holidays is the most important thing in the world, to the commercials telling us that if we don’t buy our children every latest toy and gadget, Christmas morning will be a letdown, it’s easy to resent this time of year and the jolly people around you.  So, what to do?

I often talk with clients about the idea of self-care being part of their daily routine as it builds resiliency, helps maintain consistent moods, and reminds us to value ourselves.  This time of year in particular though, it is even more crucial. Maybe you’re spending Thanksgiving or Hanukkah alone this year – that could easily lead to feelings of worthlessness, isolation, or sadness.  What about instead of indulging too much in those feelings, you acknowledge them, then remember that there are benefits to enjoy such as time to yourself for relaxation and activities you value?  Also, reflecting upon how you’d like the holiday to look next year and steps you can take to create that.  Maybe you are alone this year because you’ve been doing difficult work on yourself and have chosen to set personal boundaries and not have toxic relatives in your life anymore.  Celebrate that!  You now have the freedom to make your own traditions and spend the holiday how you’d like, without worrying about others’ unhealthy expectations.

Another difficult part of the holiday season can be remembering past Thanksgivings, Christmases, etc when you had loved ones in your life who have now passed.  Even if you’re coping well in your daily life, feelings of grief can rear their ugly head this time of year.  It may not feel worth celebrating without this important person in your life.  What if you created a place for them in your day?  Maybe create a special ornament in their honor and place it on your Christmas tree as a token of remembrance.  Or maybe light a special candle for them through Hanukkah.  However you celebrate, find a way to incorporate this person into the festivities.  Nostalgia is a powerful feeling when mixed with loss and if we’re not careful to acknowledge it, we could become depressed this time of year.

There are many reasons why it could feel difficult to get into the holiday spirit and feel thankful, but being kind to oneself and not judging the struggle is the important thing.  After all, isn’t expressing gratitude to ourselves for our strength and ability to make it through another year one of the best gifts of all?

Also published on Medium.

2 thoughts on “When It’s Hard to Feel Thankful

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