Everyone feels like they should be having a blast during the winter holiday season. There’s even a popular song called “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of Year.” You’ve no doubt heard it blasted from big-box store speakers while you’re waiting in line to get the latest video game system for your kid. Christmas stress is so common that psychiatrists have studied it. The pressure and expectations can lead to holiday depression. But if you can predict something is coming, you can also prepare yourself to respond to it. If your current Christmas plan isn’t helping, it’s time to consider more drastic steps. Here are alternative ways to celebrate.
Travel far away
Most people who book holiday travel are flying to see family. You don’t see a lot of people in the airport going on a tropical vacation on Christmas Eve. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go on one. If you’re not in the mood to hang out with your entire extended family this year, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Most Americans only get a certain amount of vacation days. When our paid time lags behind so many other countries, it’s fair to wonder if you should spend a week or so of that time to go hang out with your parents and grandparents in the middle of nowhere. There’s nothing wrong with doing that some years or even most years, if you’re OK with it.
But if you can’t handle it every year, be kind to yourself. Remember that you have other parts of your life that are worth prioritizing sometimes. If you and your spouse are celebrating 10 years of marriage, for instance, it’s perfectly OK to head for Hawaii and go to a luau in Maui rather than going to your Aunt Susan’s house in Kansas. If you live in a harsh winter climate, it’s even more vital to get out while you can. Hawaii is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The snow will still be waiting for you when you get back.
Hang out with your chosen family
What if you can’t afford a luxury vacation, or even a cheap weekend getaway? You can still reduce your stress by cutting out toxic people in your life. If you have that one relative who always says, “Have you gained weight?” then don’t feel bad at all about not eating Christmas dinner at the same table as them.
Your chosen family can be much more supportive than the family that you’re related to by blood. Your family doesn’t necessarily have to be abusive for you to prefer hanging out with friends instead. You could have different interests from your family. Maybe you feel like the black sheep because you’re a grade school teacher in a family full of lawyers, for instance. There’s nothing wrong with feeling out of place and seeking another environment that allows you to feel more like yourself.
If you want, you can create your own holiday gathering of people who matter to you. It can be as big or as small as you want. You can have a holiday dinner at your house or go out to eat at one of those 24-hour diners that’s open on Christmas. If you don’t want to eat with your friends, you can do something else, like go see a movie. The end of the year is also a decent time to buy a car, so you might even want to grab a couple of friends and head to a Toyota dealership in Manchester, CT.
That may sound crazy, but that’s the point. Most people feel like there’s a very specific set of Christmas traditions they must adhere to. If they don’t, they feel guilty. But this Christmas, you should release yourself from all that guilt and do what makes you happy.