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By Katie Bailey, MA, LPC

December is nearly here, Thanksgiving complete – decorations are out, shopping has started. It’s holiday season. There are plenty of things that make this a special season. Holiday parties, choosing gifts for people you love, baking Christmas cookies, singing classic songs, enjoying family – all wonderful things. However, not everyone has a Hallmark picture perfect Christmas, and often we forget how hard the holidays can be for some people.

Maybe you are that person who is hurting. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one in recent years, or even this year, and that hole in your heart feels bigger at Christmas. Maybe your marriage is not where you want it be, and Christmas celebrations will just be awkward and unpleasant. Possibly your family is dysfunctional in an intolerable way – maybe there is verbal or emotional abuse thrown at you when you visit. Or it could be life just isn’t what you thought it would be – you are single when you long for marriage, you are childless when you ache for parenthood, your career hasn’t gone where you’d hoped, or you are divorced. All of our hurts, disappointments and fears seem to grow during the Christmas season.

You are not alone. The pressures of our culture to have a “perfect” holiday season is unrelenting. You likely feel like you need to mask all your pains, put on a happy face and just be joyful already!

I don’t want to see you over do it on the eggnog, blow up your credit cards, or scream at your crazy cousin in an effort to get through Christmas. So how can you get through Christmas when you’ve lost your joy?

1. Admit it. You are allowed to feel sad, disappointed, hurt, angry – whatever during Christmas. Acknowledging your real emotions and not denying them are essential in learning to deal with them.

2. Tell someone. You don’t need to announce on Facebook you are struggling with the holidays – but you should choose 1 or 2 people you trust and let them know you are hurting. Our pain is best carried and healed when we let others help us.

3. Choose your plans carefully. There is no law that says you have to go to every holiday gathering to which you are invited. Say no sometimes. Say yes to the ones where you’d feel the most comfortable – and skip the rest.

4. Carve out space for the traditions that matter to you. Choose a few things that mean a lot to you and make sure they happen. Love the neighborhood lights? Make a point to drive around and see them. Sipping your Peppermint Mocha Latte makes you smile? Put that on your must do list. Prioritize the few things you do enjoy.

5. Keep up with your regular healthy activities. I’m always asking my clients to exercise regularly, sleep enough, and cut down on caffeine. Do not give up your normal routine of taking care of yourself during the holidays. Exercise helps manage stress and depression, sleep makes us better able to handle overwhelming situations and make better decisions, and too much caffeine makes us jittery, anxious, and interrupts sleep. Set yourself up for success and take care of your body.

6. Remember why we celebrate Christmas. Do you know why you celebrate Christmas? Is it just the season where we buy gifts, remember to be nice to those in need, and over eat? Our true Christmas joy is that Jesus, our Savior, was born. Celebrating Jesus’ birth does not erase whatever heartache you might be feeling this season. In fact, that heartache you have is the reason Jesus came – to bring healing to our broken, screwed up world. So even in the midst of grief, loneliness, or hurt this Christmas – you can also taste the joy that Jesus brings, knowing he came to set things right again. It is possible to hold the pain in one hand and the joy in the other. It won’t always be this way – one day Jesus will come back and all will be redeemed. Until then we carry the pain and the joy together – even at Christmas.

If you have hurts, disappointments and pains that seem to grow deeper this holiday season – please contact me for an appointment and we can work together to figure out how to help you find some joy while you work through the pain. At Lime Tree Counseling, I want to help you find healing.

For further reading:

7 Signs of A Narcissist and How To Save Yourself

7 Ways to Sleep Better Tonight

What is a Panic Attack, Really?