Fall has arrived with its cooler weather and gently tumbling leaves. Everywhere you look, you’re reminded of the upcoming holiday season. It’s almost Thanksgiving, a time for celebrating family and gratitude. But what if you don’t exactly feel like celebrating those things? Maybe you’ve had a difficult year, with a job loss, a divorce, or some other tough circumstance. Maybe you have a hard time dealing with family members or in-laws. Or maybe you just always find yourself feeling a little down around this time of year and you’re not sure why.
The good news is: you’re not alone. A lot of people feel anxious and down around the holidays, whether they’ve had a tough year or not. Sometimes we get caught up in our ideas of what a “perfect” holiday should be like. Whether that means a holiday just like the ones you knew as a child, or the exact opposite of the ones in your past, it’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself.
Remember that the past is done, and that even the holidays that seem perfect in your memories weren’t really that way. The best holiday experience is one that you can manage and feel good about at the end. Sometimes that means doing less, and that’s okay! Your family and friends would rather have you feeling relaxed and able to enjoy yourself than stressed out and running around trying to make everything perfect.
Are you hosting a holiday gathering this year? It’s perfectly fine to ask your guests to bring dishes. Or you might want to consider pre-making (or even pre-ordering) some of the food for the gathering. Enlist the kids (or kids at heart!) in your life to help make fun decorations for your home and table. A shortcut here and there won’t make much difference to the day, and can help you be more present and have more fun.
Are you worried about not getting along with one or more people who will be present? Think about things that might happen and how you can handle them constructively. If you’ll be at someone else’s home, you can prepare plans to take a break or even leave if things get difficult. If you’re hosting, consider enlisting help: friends or other relatives who can help steer the conversation to safer ground, or who can help defuse problems that arise.
One thing that can help set the tone for a happy holiday occasion is to keep gratitude at the center of your celebration. Ask each person at the table to mention something they’re grateful for. Even if it’s been a rough year, chances are that everyone can think of one good thing that they’re thankful for. You might also consider working some sort of charitable help or volunteer experience into your holiday celebration. What better way to keep gratitude on everyone’s mind than to share what they have, whether it’s time or money, with those who need encouragement and help?
Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a positive time. Even if you are struggling with some difficult circumstances, you have a lot to celebrate and to be thankful for. Putting gratitude and love at the center of your season will help you to have a happier holiday—and will improve the rest of your year too.