Does the mere thought of the holiday season exhaust you and make you want to cry? The fake smiles you’ll have to plaster on… the shopping you have zero desire to do… the family togetherness you’d give anything to avoid? Seeing everyone so impossibly happy and full of cheer?
It IS possible to opt out of the holidays. Maybe not permanently, after all you don’t want to turn into a bitter old Scrooge. But you can give yourself a year off. I did and it was the best present I ever gave myself.
I was in the middle of my divorce and not feeling terribly festive, to say the least. As the holidays neared, I started feeling more and more anxious about how I was going to fake it.
I finally thought, "I just can't do this" and decided I wasn't going to attend my usual holiday gatherings. At first, I tried to let my friends and family down easy, telling them “I’ll see how I feel” or “I’ll try to make it” when they invited me over. But that resulted in them cajoling and pleading and insisting that I say I’d be there. I was unable to say no, which made me resentful and even more anxious. It was a vicious cycle.
So instead, I declared it a “Holiday Free Year” and I said, with a smile, “Thank you so much, but I’m not celebrating this year. Have a great time though.” It was refreshing! It was freeing! I didn’t apologize. I didn’t slink around making excuses. I was just honest and direct when I told my friends and family that I was taking a year off to heal.
The trick was to make sure I had a plan and something to do with all my newfound time. I made a list of all the things I had been meaning to do, but never seemed to get to…I went to the movies, worked my way through a stack of books, and got back in touch with friends I had not taken the time to write in a long while. I cleaned out closets, tried on all my clothes, and donated what didn’t fit anymore. I went through old picture albums and caught up on all kinds of mindless TV. In the end, I actually felt productive because these were all things I really wanted to do, but never seemed to have the time.
I even wrote some New Year’s Resolutions. Granted, they weren’t your typical ones but I enjoyed coming up with them. My list looked a little like this that year:
Enjoy junk food even more than usual
Drink alcohol as often as possible
Avoid the gym at all costs
Go up a clothes size and buy some new stuff
Consider the benefits of sleeping around
Spend as much money as I want
Pick up a new bad habit
And hey, when I followed through with them, I felt successful because seriously, who ever follows through on resolutions?!
When I gave myself permission to take the year off from the holidays, I felt instant relief. If I felt like going out, I did. And then my friends would be pleasantly surprised to see me show up. But if I felt like staying in my pajamas and ordering pizza at home, I did. No one made me feel guilty for skipping out or tried to convince me to “cheer up.”
I think the key was rather than feeling locked into the holidays because it was what others expected of me, I gave myself the power to say "no thank you" without excuses and without guilt. It was a relief to think I didn’t have to put on an act for others. Instead, I decided when (or if) I was up for festivities.
It’s not only okay-- it’s really important to take care of yourself when you are fragile. If what you need is a year off, I encourage you to take it. Just tell everyone you’ll be back next year.
For more ideas on how to skip the holidays or help creating your list of New Year’s Anti-Resolutions, contact SAS ~ Support and Solutions for Women™. Only if you feel like it of course.