Sad Christmas photo

Photo Credit: Lemon Jenny

How was your Christmas this year? If you had to rate it on a scale from 1 (not good at all) to 10 (really, really good) where would you list it?

Many of my clients listed their holiday between 5 and 9. For some of my clients, Christmas was a nice distraction from the stress and changes occurring in the world. For others, it was simply another day filled with the stressors of life.

Lets face it, Christmas, as beautiful as it is, can come at the wrong time for some people. I have heard many people around me (those I know personally and those I do not) mention having to face the following despite the holiday: foreclosure, death/funeral(s), divorce/separation, financial troubles, robbery/burglary, unexpected illness or disability, severe mental health challenges, loss of employment, miscommunication with family or friends, and loss of hope.

This article will provide 8 tips on how to “rebound” after a not so happy Christmas. 

Christmas is certainly a wonderful time of the year. It’s beautiful and can be divine. But for many people, Christmas is a struggle for a variety of reasons. It would be unrealistic to think that everyone on Christmas Day had a “wonderful holiday.” Many people struggled. As a result, I list below tips on hope to move past your disappointment:

  1. Accept reality: As difficult as it may be, accepting reality is the best thing you can do. If your holiday wasn’t as good as you had hoped, that’s okay. Accept what has happened in order to move on. The first step toward putting something past you is acceptance. In fact, acceptance is one of the first things mental health professionals tell their clients who are tired of suffering. It is also an important goal in substance abuse treatment. To go forward you need to accept the difficult.
  2. Search for a “why” or “what:” It may be helpful to explore why your holiday wasn’t as good as you had hoped and what caused it. Once you explore this, it may be helpful to then explore what might make future holidays different for you. Building insight is important and for some people it can be comforting to fully understand why you feel the way you feel.
  3. Plan a different holiday: This Christmas may have not been everything you wanted but you have next year, God willing. Consider different ways you’d like to celebrate the next Christmas. Would it be better if you did your shopping earlier? Would it be better if you didn’t visit a particular side of the family? Would it be different if you stayed home or did something small and fun? Think of different ways to spend the next holiday.
  4. Pursue Therapy: Sometimes life is just too much to deal with. If you find yourself feeling depressed, hopeless, despondent, or even frustrated consider seeking therapy. Having someone to talk to and having someone to examine and evaluate you can truly be helpful. Perhaps your bad holiday had nothing to do with what was going on around you, but had more to do with a mental health struggle such as depression or anxiety. Getting treatment may be very helpful to you. Keep in mind that therapy does not have to last very long. Perhaps you need one month or two months to learn new ways to cope with stress in your life.
  5. Look ahead: As I stated above, you don’t have to have another miserable holiday if you plan ahead or think of ways to make the next holiday a bit better. Even more, you’re going to a feel much better once you finally get over how this past holiday went for you. Look ahead to your future and explore ways you can make the upcoming year positive for yourself and/or those you love. Find good reasons (i.e., marriage, raising children, attending college or graduate school, having a baby, moving, traveling, etc.) to look ahead into your future. Avoid getting stuck in a bad spot over one day.
  6. Allow yourself to experience disappointment: Disappointment is natural and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by everything. Don’t feel bad about this. Try to find ways to help yourself move from disappointment to hope. It is okay to cry, be angry, feel depressed, or even defeated. But once you experience your emotions for a bit, move yourself on to the next stage of life. Don’t stay there forever. Find a way to crane yourself out.
  7. Examine reality: One of the things I encourage my clients to do when they are struggling with negative thoughts and emotions is to challenge their thoughts and feelings. For example, lets say your Christmas ended too soon and included many of your family members getting into arguments. Instead of thinking, “I truly hate my family and want this to be over,” you could challenge this thought and consider an alternative way to view the situation. Instead of feeling hopeless and helpless because of this statement, you could remind yourself that your family loves each other or that your family often forgives easily and moves on.
  8. Give yourself (and others) the benefit of the doubt: One of my clients recently began beating himself up over the fact that his Christmas party wasn’t as “wonderful” as he had hoped. He planned a block party in which everyone on the street would come to his house to celebrate the holiday. Sadly, his neighbor planned the same thing which resulted in feelings of envy and anger. Instead of telling himself that his neighbor had no idea he was planning a block party, he told himself, “he’s trying to outdo me.” Give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt and challenge yourself to examine if your feelings are really reality.

Looking forward to hearing about your experience this holiday season.

I wish you well in the New Year!