Do you roll your eyes every time you hear that Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year!” but wish you could actually enjoy the holidays or at least hate Christmas a little less?
This was my husband for the last 10 years we’ve been married (at least). I love the holidays, he hates them. In fact, he used to start dreading Christmas in September. That’s why I teased him about being the Grinch.
Over the years, we’ve had to figure out how to navigate the tension between our very different perspectives. And throughout that process, we’ve learned how to make Christmas and other holidays more enjoyable.
I call these the “Grinch approved strategies for enjoying the holidays.” Do they work, you ask? Yep. My husband shocked me this morning when he started talking about decorating for Christmas with a positive tone and fun ideas.
Who is he even?!
But yes, they work even if you really hate Christmas. You can look at these as ways to “surivive the holidays” if you’re not quite ready to stop hating them.
1) You Can’t be Everywhere So Stop Trying
One of the challenges of the season is the demands that it puts on your time. In my family, we’ve always had at least 3 Christmas parties per year. When I got married, I added in all the events in my husband’s family, too. The ADHD girl in me enjoys that bouncing around and all the variety.
But all the time pressures makes my husband very anxious. It’s one of the big reasons he hates Christmas. When you have to treat your schedule like a jigsaw puzzle to see how in the hell you are going to fit every gathering in, it can be stressful.
For him to enjoy the holidays more, we had to give up some of the gatherings. Instead of driving all over the country for every party and only getting to spend an hour there at a time, we cut some of the gatherings out. It cut down on the stress of getting everywhere and he enjoys the holidays more.
Put some boundaries on your time. Take some gatherings off your plate. Erase some of your “to do” items. You can’t enjoy the holidays if the stress of participating wipes out your energy before you even get started.
2) You Have to Take Care of Yourself
When my husband listed off all the things he hated about Christmas, there was one thing he mentioned twice: every gathering is loud, hot, and crowded. For him and for other Highly Sensitive People and Introverts alike, this combination can get really overwhelming.
As an HSP, I’m familiar with the overstimulation that comes with the holiday gatherings but I’ve learned ways to manage them and found that doing so helps me enjoy the holidays more.
I take breaks from the chaos by doing an introverted tasks or finding a quiet place in another room. Sometimes, I go outside and look at the stars. I take care of myself like this as often as I need to.
When I told my husband how I managed the overwhelm, he struggled with it. It’s not what you’re “supposed to do.” You’re supposed to be present throughout the entire gathering.
It took some convincing but once he dropped that expectation and allowed himself the permission to practice self care even it was in the middle of a holiday party, he started hating Christmas a little less.
Don’t get lost in arbitrary expectations about whether or not it’s “proper” to take care of yourself. You can actually enjoy the holidays if you take care of yourself. So do it.
3) Set New Traditions
This was a big one for my husband. In listening to his list of all the things he hated about Christmas, a common theme was that the entire season felt like a laundry list of things he didn’t want to do and no time for anything he might enjoy.
When we cut back the number of our commitments, we had room to start practicing our own holiday traditions. For us, that meant going to a Christmas eve service and watching the Christmas episodes of our favorite shows. This year, I’m pretty sure he’s going to have me watching Die Hard because it’s his “favorite Christmas movie.” Does it even count, though? ?
Making the holidays your own helps you enjoy the holidays more. When you allow yourself to prioritize some of the things you care about, it’s more natural to enjoy it.
Put your own expression on the season. Prioritize some of the things that are important to you. If that’s volunteering at a soup kitchen, make it happen. If it’s some down time with your favorite seasonal coffee, do it. Make a tradition that you find is worth looking forward to and it’s easier to stop hating Christmas.
4) Don’t Get Caught Up in Commercialism
Sometimes the over emphasis placed on gifts creates unnecessary stress–from getting the “perfect gift” for the hardest people to buy for or all the stuff on your kids’ Christmas wish list. The commercialism of the holidays can make them difficult to enjoy.
The money we spend on holiday gifts is often burdensome and the stress we place on the “right” gift is enough to make you dread the season altogether.
We’ve learned to follow a few principles that have helped reduce the commercialism stress of the holidays.
- Don’t buy presents for everyone. We pick who we are buying for and we stick to it because springing for that $40 gift for the person you see once a year and have no idea what they even like isn’t worth increasing our debt and therefore stress. I mean, I love you Cousin Tina, but sorry.
- We don’t go into debt to buy presents. It’s not worth the stress for the rest of the year.
- Kids don’t have to get everything on their list. Getting your kids everything they want can actually make them less happy, once the initial excitement wears off.
When the holidays are primarily about gifts, my husband and I both find them more stressful. When they are, instead, more about our own new and well-loved traditions, they are more fun.
5) Let Go of Perfection
Perfectionism just adds anxiety and stress to your holiday season. The house doesn’t have to be beautiful. The cookies can look terrible. The gifts don’t have to be just right.
You can be late if you have to. Shhhhhhhh…..
If you spend your energy trying to have a Hallmark Christmas you’ll be disappointed and overwhelmed. No one can enjoy their time when they are caught in an energy drain like perfectionism. But the Holiday Season is advertised in such a way that we often don’t even realize that we’re chasing perfection–we think it’s just what we’re supposed to do.
Like how we’re supposed to cook the huge Paula Dean meal and our house is supposed to look like a Hallmark card decorated by Martha Stewart. And we’re supposed to go to every gathering–show up early to help set up and stay late to clean.
Even thinking about those standards make me want to scream. If that’s what it takes to enjoy your holidays, I’m not sure it’s possible. Let go of those standards and arbitrary shoulds and let your holiday season be imperfect but fun.
Related: How to Overcome Perfectionism
6) Pay Attention to Your Expectations
The expectation for perfectionism is only one way in which our expectations can ruin holiday season and create more stress.
Everywhere we look, we get the message that everyone has a perfect and truly magical holiday experience. The Facebook pictures, the Christmas movies…it’s everywhere. We start to believe that if it’s anything less, we’re either doing it wrong or at least missing out.
Our expectations have the power to ruin our experience. If we believe that the holiday season is supposed to be magical, anything less is a disappointment. On the other hand, if you expect your holiday to be awful because “it’s always awful” that expectation sets the tone and colors your experience.
7) Set Boundaries with “those” Family Members
Sometimes the holidays are hard because families can be dysfunctional or thoughtless in how they interact with us. It’s hard not to dread the season if it means feeling shame or overrun by hurtful family members.
How you decide to put boundaries up will be uniquely your own. Some ideas that others have used are:
- Finding ways to avoid certain family members while still going to the gathering.
- Bringing someone along for emotional support.
- Discussing the problem in advance with other, safe, family members who will be there to get ideas on how to navigate it.
- Making the boundary clear as soon as there is a hint that it’s headed in a hurtful direction and leaving if they cross it anyway.
- Choosing not to go as a way to protect yourself from further harm.
If this is a big reason that you hate Christmas and don’t enjoy the holidays, don’t hesitate to get help. Therapy can be really helpful here in helping you decide on the right strategies for yourself and build up your courage to use them.
I also think making time to spend over the holidays with people that are caring and supportive is extra important when the holidays are stressful from dysfunctional family members. It doesn’t fix everything but it helps balance things out a bit.
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Love the holidays? Hate them? Drop a comment and let me know your favorite or least favorite part and how you survive the holidays!