Do jingle bells make you want to scream rather than rejoice? Does holiday cheer leave you almost cheerless? You’re not alone.

Many people — either alone or with others — can feel vulnerable in December. The holiday season is one of celebration but, paradoxically, it can also take a toll on your wellbeing.

In 2013, Forbes reached out to me about how time of year can take its toll on your mental and physical health. Unfortunately, it’s as still as relevant now:

“Advertisers show us a Christmas season full of romance, extravagant wealth, wholesome family cohesiveness, and major celebrations with friends that can cause you to feel inferior by not living up to a hyped image.”

So, how can you turn this season of unattainable norms into a one of joy for you? Here are some ideas you can start using now:

1) Define the holidays your way.

“It’s allowed.” was a favorite phrase that Linda McCartney would say to her husband, Paul, when he was feeling stressed or anxious [1]. (Yes, that Paul McCartney!) Growing up with an unprecedented level of fame at an early age, McCartney admitted that he suffered from bouts of anxiety from not living to others’ expectations and found himself often paralyzed by fear and indecision. That simple phrase (one that wife Nancy also uses) allowed him to break the cycle of indecision and reminded him that your life is entirely what you make of it.

It’s liberating when you realize that you are free to do things as you want to—and when it comes to happiness, there are no rules. So celebrate the holidays by finding the things that speak to you and celebrate them, also.

If you’re feeling nostalgic for your childhood memories of the holiday, why not try and bring some of them back? Resurrect the family recipes you long for [2], the traditions you feel are too overlooked, the decorations that “speak” to you or make you happy [3]. With Amazon and eBay, it’s easier than ever to track down those nostalgic decorations, hard-to-find ingredients, even ugly sweaters—and, who knows, you may be pulling metal tinsel out of your vacuum cleaner rollers again in no time! (Ah, I can smell it now…)

And, if you want to just get away from it all and discover a new beach in Bali—“It’s allowed.”

2) Discover self-care.

Self-care is a simple idea which challenges you to take as much care for yourself as you freely provide to others.

It can be as easy as devoting a day per week to doing something new that you’ve always wanted to try, spending time wearing a relaxing face-mask, listening to music, sampling a new cuisine, taking a class, learning a new language or improving your conversational skills, walking or hiking, or just some quiet time to collect and organize your thoughts. By taking care of yourself, you will have more time to give to others, too.

So, take some time to recharge your batteries—you’ll be amazed at how it can change the rest of your week.

3) Give back.

I was recently reading a post about how many who live in nursing homes get few to no visitors this time of year. The author shared how she collects little, inexpensive luxuries (a cute plush or fun toy; hard candies, chocolates, or cookies; a fun board or card game; moisturizer; a large-type puzzle book, etc.), packages them, and delivers them, Secret Santa-style, to her local nursing home. (The staff knows who is in most need or who may be all alone.)

There are hundreds of ways to give back in your neighborhood, community, or with a cause you care deeply about—and your way of giving back can be as unique as you are!

4) Reach out.

Draft an email or a letter to a friend you’ve lost touch with over the years and let them know how much their friendship meant to you, how and where you think about them. Then send it. Don’t hesitate. Just do it.

It may get delivered, it may not. In this era of ubiquitous communication, it is paradoxical that even though it is easier than ever to find people we’ve lost the art of personal communication. Make it your goal to reconnect with those who you miss.

So, take this time to express what’s unique about you—and let the way you celebrate the holidays reflect that.

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More Reading:

Medical Daily (14 December 2018), “Holiday Health Risks to Watch Out For,” [Suzanne Roff, quoted]

Forbes (18 December 2013), “The 12 Health Risks Of Christmas (And How To Cope With Them)” [Suzanne Roff, quoted]

Expressive Links

[1] The Guardian (13 October 2013), “Paul McCartney at 71: still here, there and everywhere

[2] Bailey’s Mills Fruitcake Recipe: This is, seriously, the BEST fruitcake recipe—no plastic-y glazed fruit allowed!

[3] Shiny-Bright, a New Jersey original. [Image of vintage Shiny-Bright ornaments via Pinterest.]