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What is Hard About the Holidays

Sometimes what's hard about the holidays isn't really about the holidays.

If you’ve been here a while, you probably know that I struggle with this time of year. As I feel that old familiar dread creeping in again, my first reaction is to be hard on myself. I’ve been thinking about, creating strategies for, practicing, and writing about more helpful ways to navigate the holiday season for years. Shouldn’t I have it figured out by now?

Let me tell you…my self-criticism certainly isn’t making anything feel easier or more jolly.

There are a lot of strategic things we can do to shift our attitudes, communicate our expectations, tend our boundaries, and craft more supportive self-care plans. But even the best strategy can’t eliminate the places where the holidays press hard into deep hurts and fears.

Holiday celebrations are hard for me for many reasons. For example, they often remind me of ways I used to be (and ways I’m still working to change). There are some versions of my past self that I can greet with so much compassion. Then there are others I really struggle to treat gently. Feeling harshness toward myself, past or present, makes it harder to show up as who I want to be.

The holidays don’t cause those difficulties within me so much as they amplify what is already there. I carry my past with me all year round, but it’s harder to ignore when I’m back in my hometown surrounded by people who knew me way back when.

Sometimes what’s hard about the holidays isn’t really about the holidays.

I don’t have all the answers for us, but I wonder…when the holidays feel hard, can we discern which aspects of the challenges we encounter are specifically a result of the holidays and which are pointing us toward broader places in our lives that need attention?

Facing grief, regret, anger, or fear isn’t easy. It’s tempting to blame anything that comes up during this time on the extra stress of the holidays and go back to ignoring it once things settle down again. Most of the time we don’t even realize what we’re doing.

This year, I plan to revisit exercises and questions that help me clarify my expectations, set intentions, and practice self-care (see past posts below for some ideas). I also want to notice those places in my life that get churned up by the holidays, the places I tend to ignore, and use that awareness to give them some much needed attention during the rest of the year.

I’d love to know…what are you looking forward to? Is there anything you dread? What can the hard parts of the holiday season show you about areas that need attention in your life? Leave a comment below or send me an email to share you thoughts.

Also, check out these past posts for more thoughts and questions to support us through this season.

The holidays can come with so many expectations. When our experience doesn’t measure up, it’s tempting to force things to be better…to force ourselves to be better. It’s actually taken a weight off my shoulders to realize that refusing to recognize things for what they are doesn’t change them.

What if we let this holiday season be imperfectly lovely? What if we acknowledged that this is a complicated season celebrated with complicated, messy, wonderful people? Examining the expectations we carry can help us prepare for holidays that aren’t flawlessly jolly.

There are so many ways our expectations can actually get in the way of what we really want. The thing is, we’re all still human, even on special days. Instead of striving for an entire holiday that’s glittering and magical, what if you paid attention and noticed those special moments you don’t want to miss?

I know what helps me find energy and calm in my days. Often those very practices are the first things to go when my day-to-day routine is interrupted—right when I need them most. What would change if you brought your non-negotiables along for the holidays?

For many of us, the holiday season is filled with extra activities and tasks. In the flurry of updating our calendars and checking our to-do lists, there’s a more important question that’s often overlooked. Who will you be for the holidays?