How to Keep From Getting Emotionally Drained During the Holidays

I wouldn’t call myself a big Kacey Musgraves fan, only because I don’t know much about her besides her iconic Met Gala 2019 look. I am, however, obsessed with all things Christmas, so I simply had to watch her special on Amazon Prime. Always a fan of new versions of my favorite holiday classics, I listened intently to the songs she selected, but one specific song struck a chord (pun intended). Amidst Let it Snow and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Kacey sang Christmas Makes Me Cry. And full disclosure, it kinda did make me cry.

Here’s the truth: while the holidays are undoubtedly the most wonderful time of the year, they can also feel stressful, lonely, and yes, even make you cry. Sure, spending time with loved ones is great, giving feels good, and Love Actually is the best movie of all time. However, all of the parties, the shopping, and the questions from nosy aunts about when you’re getting married/having children/settling down can get draining.

Now is the part in the story where I burst out into a rendition of Where Are You Christmas as I contemplate what has happened to the true meaning à la Cindy Lou Who. I’ll spare you from my awful singing voice (ask my coworkers!), and instead, give you tips so you can enjoy the holidays. If all you want for Christmas is an uninterrupted nap, here are seven ways to avoid getting emotionally drained this season.

 

Keep up the parts of your daily routine that make you feel good

When it comes to your consistent daily routine, make a list of the non-negotiable: does exercising every day keep you from getting stressed out? Does a morning meditation center you, or a strict 10:30pm bedtime make you feel like yourself the next day? Whatever the most important part of your daily routine is, make sure you stick to it.

 

Prioritize “recharge” time

Even if you’re a self-diagnosed extrovert through and through, we all need alone time to recharge and gain energy or find peace. Stay in for a night if you feel like you’re starting to dread what’s on your calendar, or push back dinner plans to take a relaxing bath. Even if you’re visiting family and feel like you have no space, try to wake up a little earlier than everyone else to go for a run or read in a quiet place.

 

Determine what about the holidays actually makes you happy

We all have lots of traditions and plans that we want to fit in each holiday season, but very few of these things on our to-do lists make us happy. Make a list of your top goals for the season. Is it to spend time with family members you don’t get to see often? Is it to contribute to your community or help those in need? Is it to make memories with your children? For the next few weeks, keep your goals in mind and only say yes to the events, invitations, and traditions that help you reach those goals. Give yourself permission to let go of everything else.

 

Buy presents in bulk

For all of your coworkers, kids’ teachers, and party hosts, have a go-to gift on hand that you buy in advance so you don’t have to spend too much time and energy shopping for each person or gift exchange. Save the long lines, big crowds, and steep prices for the closest loved ones in your life. Planning will also help you stick to a budget, reducing money stress that usually comes as the season goes on.

 

Eat, drink, and be merry… intuitively

The mind and body are inextricably linked. Yes, it’s important to give yourself proper nourishment (mindful eating is key!), but the guilt you put on yourself is worse for your body than any peppermint stick or cheese soufflé could be. There will be a lot of indulgences this season, and you should not feel guilty for sipping on eggnog or having a slice of grandma’s pecan pie. Enjoy the “worth-it moments” that represent traditions or bring you closer to loved ones. Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, listen to what your body needs, and put some leafy greens next to the mashed potatoes and casserole on your plate.

 

Rethink your expectations

One reason that the season can feel draining is because it seems so “magical” and hyped up that it very rarely lives up to expectations. Maybe you pictured being in love this time of year and are single, or you envisioned a perfect Christmas Eve dinner but your cousins fought the whole time, or maybe you just didn’t have time to fit in all you wanted to do. Stop thinking of the season as the greeting card version, and enjoy all the little moments that are unique to you. Remember that “forced happiness” (i.e. trying to get into the holiday spirit when you’re just not feeling it) is not real happiness, and can make you sadder or more anxious.

 

Focus on giving instead of what you’re lacking

So giving is the ultimate virtue of Christmas, but it runs much deeper than with gifts. It may sound counterintuitive, but whatever you feel you’re missing or stressed about not having (whether it’s time, money, or companionship), give it away. If you’re feeling like you’re tight on money, give $5 to a charity or buy toys and snow boots for a holiday drive. If you’re feeling lonely this season, figure out how you can give love: call your mom, check in on a friend who’s having a hard time, or invite your elderly neighbor over for dinner.

As cliché as it sounds, giving really is magical. Not just for all the reasons you learned as a little kid about making other people feel good (don’t get me wrong, that’s still important!!), but because it’s one of the few things (if not the thing) that has the power to actually transform how your life looks like to you. You’ll start focusing on what you do have, instead of what you don’t.

 

How do you keep up your mental health during the holidays?