Surviving the holidays isn’t always easy. Indeed, the holidays can bring up feelings of grief, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, stress, missing someone who’s no longer here, or wishing things were different in your life.
This is especially true if you’re dealing with a major change during the holiday season – such as a divorce, moving to a new house, switching jobs, or dealing with an illness. Not to mention the pressures you sometimes face from society, family, and friends to do what’s “traditional” or “expected”. It’s just not always possible to have a holiday season that looks like a Hallmark card, where you come together with your loving family to enjoy each other.
Real families aren’t perfect. Sometimes there are rifts, arguments, disagreements, traumatic memories, even toxic relatives. Sometimes you live away from your family, and there’s no possibility of reuniting for the holidays.
For highly sensitive people (HSPs), the holidays can be doubly stressful. The holidays involve so many expectations that are overstimulating to the HSP: we’re expected to socialize, attend parties or events, engage in small talk, give and receive gifts (which can be so stressful since we don’t want to disappoint anyone), eat lots of food that might upset our systems, travel, and so on.
So how can we deal with these expectations, pressures, and “shoulds” during the holidays? I’ve compiled my favorite strategies below as a holiday survival guide for the highly sensitive person. I hope some of these help you!
Intensify your self-care routine
It’s easy to forget about yourself and your self-care routine once the holidays roll around. Suddenly, it becomes about what your family wants, or what society expects of you, or what tradition dictates you should do. This is why it’s so important to MAINTAIN your self-care routine – maybe even step it up! – throughout the holiday season.
Yes, the holidays are a “season of giving” (or something along those lines) but don’t forget to also give to yourself. You deserve to be cared for, nurtured, nourished, and comforted, especially if you experience any discomfort or stressful feelings. Treat yourself by taking lots of naps and baths, gifting yourself a new candle or cozy blanket (if it’s cold where you live!), cooking nourishing foods for yourself, and balancing your time alone and your time with other people however it works best for you.
Connect with your inner child
The holidays – and your holiday memories – are in many ways connected to your childhood. Your holiday memories might include both positive memories of holiday experiences that you enjoyed (such as spending time with your grandparents, getting a gift you *really* wanted, eating delicious food, or whatever else) and negative memories of dysfunctional holiday experiences.
Your inner child might also be grieving for the “picture perfect” holidays you were never able to have as a child. So, it’s important to connect with and celebrate your inner child during the holiday season. You can do this by engaging in playful activities. Some ideas include doing arts & crafts, painting, coloring, drawing, playing outdoors, playing with your pet, reading books or watching movies that you loved as a child.
Be mindful of caring for your inner child during the holidays and listening to what he/she needs. Your inner child might feel especially tender, sad, lonely, or anxious during this time of year. And if your inner child needs to cry, allow her to do so as well.
Enforce clear boundaries
To resist the pressures from family and society, it’s key to set and enforce clear boundaries. For example, it might be that this year you don’t host anyone at your home overnight. Or you’re not responsible for ALL the cooking, cleaning, wrapping, and decorating. Or you choose not to travel to see family because it’s too stressful/expensive/draining.
You might even decide to have a year where you don’t celebrate the holidays at all. Or instead of buying gifts and doing the regular holiday thing (i.e., consumerism!), you bring your kids to a shelter or soup kitchen to give back to others in need. (Of course, you can do this yourself even if you don’t have kids.)
Or you might choose to spend the holidays alone, or just with your partner, or with a couple of close friends. The options are endless once we allow ourselves to look beyond the traditional expectations of how we’re “supposed” to spend the season.
Schedule lots of downtime
Whatever you choose to do (or not do) during the holidays, make sure you schedule lots of downtime for yourself. This is especially needed if you’ll be traveling, staying at someone else’s house, or going to a lot of different gatherings and holiday parties (including the office party, which can be another kind of stressful event!).
Schedule moments where you can go for a walk, do yoga, meditate, step away from the noise and other people, and re-ground. Don’t forget to use energy shielding as well. Call out to your Spirit Guides to surround you in a circle of white light for protection and strength and to repel any negative vibrations or frequencies. This is especially important if you’re an empath!
Remember: “this too shall pass”
Finally, remember that just like with anything else in life, the holidays will eventually be over. You CAN make it through, especially using these tools and strategies. When you’re in the thick of it, feeling super stressed or overwhelmed, step away for a few minutes, take a deep breath, and speak the mantra: “I know this too shall pass. I’m doing the best I can in this moment. I can get through this.”
Wishing you peace, abundance, comfort, and warmth this holiday season (and every other day, too!).
If you need more support as a highly sensitive person or empath, I invite you to check out my Powerfully Sensitive Program. I’ve designed this program to help you shift from overwhelm to empowerment, heal any sense of unworthiness about your own sensitivity, and discover your sensitive gifts.