Just Another Day: 9 Tips on Coping During a Difficult Holiday Season

by Hilary Christian

The holidays can be a time of joy and love, as many celebrate with friends and family, making preparations, and getting in on all the holiday cheer. But for others, this time of year can be extremely stressful. Some may struggle with depression or financial woes, while others may be away from loved ones and find themselves alone with no plans. And then there are those who aren’t necessarily religious, so they miss out on the “holiness” of the season. No matter what category you fall into, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed. Here are nine ways to cope during what can be a difficult holiday season.

Turn off the TV.

It’s nearly impossible to turn on the TV without being inundated with commercials pushing us to buy this and splurge on that. So instead of feeling overwhelmed by all the holiday marketing, just unplug the television. Read a book. Get outside (if it’s not too cold) or turn on that iPod and dance around to your favorite tunes--anything to take your mind off the holiday consumerism on every channel. And since Scandal is on a winter break until January it shouldn’t be all that hard to take a hiatus from the idiot box.

Spoil Yourself.

During this busy time it’s so easy to focus on doing for others that we forget to take time for ourselves. But we need to remember that self-care is vital to our mental and spiritual health. Whether it’s scheduling that long overdue massage or sending the kids to grandma’s so you can enjoy some quiet time on the couch with a good book, make sure you pencil in some much deserved “me time” to spoil yourself.


Nonprofits and social service agencies are inundated with requests from those in need and during the holidays these organizations rely heavily on generous volunteers to help serve their communities. Whether you’re serving food to the homeless, cuddling sick babies in the ICU or heading up a coat drive for needy families, volunteering is a great way to help those less fortunate and remind us to be thankful for our own blessings.

Spend time with kids.

Kids are all about having fun and can be the best antidote for the holiday blues. So grab your little ones (or borrow someone else’s kids) and watch a funny movie, play a fun board game, or go to some of the holiday activities in your area and experience the season through their eyes. No matter what you do, you’re bound to have a good time because it’s pretty hard to be down when you’re making silly faces with a four year old. Added bonus: After playing with a bunch of rugrats for hours on end you’ll probably get the best sleep you’ve had in a long time.

Try something new.

The holidays can get pretty lonely and monotonous, and if you’re single or don’t have any family close by, you may need to get really creative keeping yourself busy. So why not make a point to try something new each holiday. Sign up for a sexy burlesque dance classes (I tried it and now I am hooked!), make a fool of yourself in comedy improv workshops or join a pub crawl in a neighborhood in your city you’ve never visited before. It can be a little scary at first but trying new things is a great way to get out of your comfort zone, meet new people and even learn some new tricks. Like how to seductively strip tease in stilettos and stockings… like a BOSS.

Talk it out.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 1 in 10 adults suffer from depression and the holidays can trigger painful emotions and thoughts. Particularly in the African American community, depression often goes unnoticed. But you don’t have to suffer in silence. Instead, find a good friend or family member to talk to or seek professional help if you need it. And if you know someone who is struggling, reach out to check on them just so they know they’re on your mind.

Don’t buy people gifts.

Despite what the big box stores want you to believe, the holidays are not about buying your BAE a new designer bag or your kids an XBOX ONE. Given these hard economic times, some may not be in a financial position to spend that kind of money. So instead of blowing your budget, just opt out of the gift giving this year. However, if you do feel obligated to give a few gifts, try ones that are meaningful and won’t break the bank like baking holiday treats for loved ones or offering to babysit for the new mom who desperately needs to spoil herself (see #2). Either way, your bank account will thank you later.

Just say yes.

With all the holiday parties and gatherings there is no reason to be alone if you don’t want to be. Accept that invitation to a co-worker’s holiday party or take up your neighbor’s offer to come by for dinner. A good friend of mine who really isn’t into Christmas, accepts invitations from her Jewish friends to have dinner in Chinatown and always has a blast. Another single friend who doesn’t have family nearby has a calendar so full with holiday invites that I typically don’t get a chance to see her until after the new year. So if you’re game, say yes more than you say no this year and you might find yourself with a full social calendar too.

Just say no.

On the flip side, if you’re not up for all the holiday festivities and don’t feel like ringing in the new year with a bunch of strangers, don’t feel like you have to. Many people like to be alone during the holidays and if you’re the type who prefers solitude then say, “Thanks, but no thanks” to the invites, order takeout, and watch some Netflix in your pajamas. And don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings by declining their invitations. Do what feels right for you and tell them you’ll see them in 2015.

And let’s not forget prayer, meditation, exercise, and getting enough rest. Just figure out what you need, what works best, and helps you cope. With a little work and creativity, it is possible to have a peaceful, stress-free holiday, jingle bells and all.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Hilary Christian is a freelance writer and fundraiser from Chicago whose work has been featured in Arielle Loren's Corset Magazine, Wild Sister Magazine and For Harriet. Check out her blog , follow her on Twitter and like her Facebook.

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