What do you do if you just aren’t feeling the holiday spirit this year?

The holidays can be rough. Losses seem more acute, and stresses of everyday life can mute what we expect to be a joyful time.  

If you are struggling to find the holiday spirit, here are some ideas to help:

Creating a specific way and time to acknowledge loss is a very effective way to foster more holiday spirit:

The holidays can be challenging if you are mourning the death of a loved one. My father-in-law passed away two days before Christmas when our girls were five-years-old. There was quite a bit of going through the motions for both my husband and me that year. Clay’s dad had pancreatic cancer, and the months leading up to his passing were exhausting for all of us. Waking up on Christmas Eve, we knew we needed to acknowledge his death since we did not have a memorial until all of the extended family could be together.

Clay and his dad built model rockets when he was a kid, and we had several of them in the basement. We decided launching one of them would be a fitting tribute. We created “Grandpop’s Day” on the spot.  

We started the day with Grandpop’s favorite breakfast, cinnamon rolls, then headed to the beach to launch the rocket. As the engine lit and the rocket streaked into the sky, we yelled, “We love you, Grandpop!!” We finished up with Grandpop’s chili for lunch and then moved on to our Christmas Eve traditions.

It didn’t erase our grief, but it allowed us to move forward and focus on making a lovely Christmas for our girls.

Grandpop’s Day is still a tradition for us, 16 years later.

Going through the motions makes a difference:

My dad was a psychologist and would often talk about behaving your way to success, and I share this idea in chapter 7 of Stress-Proof Your Life. The idea is that going through the motions creates momentum.

Performing the appropriate behaviors or actions, even when it doesn’t feel like you can, allows you to move forward – and eventually, they become more natural and intrinsically supported.

So, putting up a decoration, buying or making a special treat, or putting on festive music can be small behaviors to create momentum for your holiday spirit.

Adjusting your expectations and giving yourself grace is a gift: 

Happy greetings from smiling, beautifully photographed families while well-intentioned can sting. They can also trigger guilt about not sending out your own greetings. Do you usually bake and share but can’t fit it in this year? It’s ok.

We usually bake several kinds of cookies (including one labor-intensive one) and deliver them to neighbors and family. This year, it isn’t working out. With our daughters away at college and a busy December, we just can’t fit it in. It’s ok.

We are choosing to make a small amount of one type of cookie because it makes us feel in the spirit and will let the rest go.  

What can you let go of this season? What can you choose to do to feel in the holiday spirit?

Give yourself the grace to choose for yourself and let go of the guilt or expectations of what you “should” be doing or feeling.

Treat yourself to a bit of self-kindness. Talk to someone who makes you smile. Watch a silly holiday movie.

Give yourself the gift of choosing what works for you.

I wish you low stress and grace this holiday season.

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