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How to get through the holidays when it is the hardest time for you

18 mins read

The holidays are always viewed as a joyous time, whether in movies, adverts or Christmas music. But this is not always the case – it is so valid not to feel the Christmas cheer.

No matter why you feel this way, whether the cheer generally repulses you, if you are feeling low in your mental health or struggling with upsetting circumstances or memories. It is all valid.

You may feel like the grinch and perhaps feel peer pressured to conform to the jolly ways of the holidays. But this is not healthy – if you are not feeling in the mood for the festivities, do not force it.

Find your triggers

It is essential to discover what emotion you are feeling and what triggers this feeling in you. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out precisely what you are feeling. However, some resources can help with this distinction, such as an emotion wheel.

Emotion wheel
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Once you have identified your emotions, try to analyse why you feel this way. It is essential to be aware of your feelings. It is just as important to recognise your triggers as it is to identify your emotions.

So what is a trigger? A trigger elicits an emotional response that is not desired; more specifically, it is a stressor. These emotional triggers can arise through stimuli taken by the five senses.

So, it may be worth taking note of the circumstances that led to you feeling this way. It is essential to be able to identify trends in this so you can respond better when it does occur because you will know it is happening.

However – there may not be an apparent reason for feeling this way, which is also okay. But it is worth attempting to be more in tune with how you feel.

Set boundaries

After discovering how you feel and why you hate holidays, you must consider the boundaries you must set. Do not feel obliged to contribute to the festivities; you do not have to listen to Christmas music and watch Christmas films.

Be firm and stand your ground – you are allowed to say no. Whether it be regarding your energy (emotional and physical), time, space or anything else. People may feel upset as you set boundaries. It is essential to be assertive but also polite.

So, let us discuss how to be polite while setting your boundaries.

1) Know your limits

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It is important to know what your limits are so you can set boundaries around them to ensure no line is crossed. This relates to your identified triggers.

There are essential and important things to consider:

  • What causes you stress or discomfort?
  • What are your triggers?
  • What do you dread doing or seeing?
  • What makes you feel exhausted?

Once you have identified these things, the next step is to figure out ways to eliminate the stressors. That is the boundaries. When you know them, you must communicate them with those around you.

2) Communicate your boundaries

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This is arguably the most crucial step in boundaries – ensure everyone is aware and knows what they are and how they can uphold them.

  • Be clear and concise on your feelings and emotions
  • Be understanding of the other side
  • Be precise and direct with your boundaries
  • Do not blame the other person
  • Do not feel guilty

If someone does not respect your boundaries, it may be worth distancing yourself from them. An essential part of boundary setting is being able to stand by them. However, the reverse is necessary, too – you must be able to respect and uphold others’ boundaries.

3) Reiterate and uphold them

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People may not understand or see the importance of your boundaries. But you must reinforce their importance by reiterating them and never backing down on them.

Avoid changing your boundaries for the sake of someone else. It may be awkward to begin with, but a person who cares for you and wants to stay in your life will respect your choices.

Reach out

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Back to the subject of emotions and dealing with them. It is vital you can notice when you are struggling and know how to reach out.

This can be as simple as reaching out to a friend, family or someone you trust to talk about how you feel. Or it can be you just spending time with them. Whatever you are comfortable with.

Take care of yourself

If you struggle this time of year, you must take care of yourself and have self-compassion. How you take care of yourself depends on what you like, but there are many things you can do.

woman using a bamboo toothbrush
Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska on

First, it is essential that you take care of your basic hygiene. When you feel down, doing basic day-to-day tasks such as brushing your teeth or showering may be difficult. But not doing these things will inevitably make you feel worse.

If you can, make sure you are maintaining good physical hygiene. But if you are struggling for motivation, there are a few life hacks you can use to feel like you are still doing something.

So, for oral health, when you cannot bring yourself to brush your teeth:

  • Mouthwash
  • Chewing gum

For body hygiene:

  • Baby wipes to freshen up
  • Low effort shower

For hair:

  • Dry shampoo
  • A quick wash in the sink

Extra tips:

  • Miss out on additional steps
  • Deodorants and body sprays
  • Febreze to smell and feel cleaner

Mental health is so important, and if you are really struggling with it, it is even more vital to attempt to get yourself feeling better, even if it is just a little bit.

Your physical health

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Exercise is probably the last thing on your mind, but it can be very beneficial. It does not have to be exhausting strenuous exercise. Anything at all can be really good for you.

Benefits of exercise:

  • improved sleep
  • stress relief
  • improves mood
  • increase in energy
  • increases self-confidence
  • reduces depression symptoms

You can do many low-effort things to get some exercise into your day.

Moreover, some of you may struggle with eating consistently or healthily. If you aren’t eating, it will make you feel worse, so please ensure you eat something. There are a few life hacks to make sure you are eating:

  • Meal prep on the better days
  • Use easy, low-effort recipes
  • Use delivery services
  • Ensure you have snacks or ready-to-eat foods stocked
  • Buy pre-made meals
  • Eating instant foods such as noodles
  • Make easy sandwiches
  • Get supplements if needed

Self-care is another good way to try and trick your body into feeling better emotionally and physically. Do these self-care activities:

  • face mask
  • skincare
  • nails
  • massage face and body
  • pressure points

Your mental health

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It is vital you take care of your mental health, and there are many activities you can do to aid your mental health. Whether it is to ease anxiety or stress, or distract yourself from dwelling on whatever you think about.

Mindfulness activities can bring you to the present and stop you from focusing too much on the past or future:

  • get into spirituality
  • meditate
  • breathing exercises
  • gratitude lists
  • single-tasking (focus on one task)
  • use your senses

Calming activities can ease your anxiety:

  • music
  • comfort TV
  • read
  • aromatherapy
  • herbal teas
  • podcasts
  • YouTube videos
  • spend time with nature

Fun activities can distract you from feeling down:

  • drawing
  • painting
  • arts and crafts
  • games
  • singing
  • dancing
  • games and puzzles
  • learn something new
  • spend time with pets

Your space

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Your space will impact your perception of things, so to feel better, it is a good idea to clear your space and fill it with things that make you happy.

The first to-do is tidying. Clear your space, put away washing, wipe surfaces and even change your bed if you are feeling up to it. After you de-clutter your room, you will feel like you have de-cluttered your mind.

Organising your things will make you feel less chaotic and reduce the stress of looking for things.

The atmosphere can influence your mood. After you have cleared, cleaned and organised your space, you should create a comfortable and peaceful environment.

Plants in your room can create a sense of nature and earth which can ground you and leave you feeling relaxed. Here are some low-maintenance plants you can get for your room to help you reduce stress:

  • Snake plant
  • Aloe vera
  • Peace lily
  • Spider plant

As mentioned in the calming activities section above, you can use aromatherapy to help create a peaceful environment, and this can be done in many ways:

  • candles
  • diffuser
  • aromatic spritzers
  • oils and creams to apply topically
  • face steamer

These can be very beneficial for reducing anxiety as it uses essential oils. Many essential oils promote mental health and stress relief so look into ones that can help with your struggle and relax the worries away.

The lighting

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Finally, the lighting in the room can affect how you feel. Depending on your needs, your lighting should be different. If you want to get work done, perhaps a brighter light is needed to concentrate. However, while trying to create a relaxing space, you will want to have less harsh light in your room.

Colour therapy is interesting – basically, you use lighting to help with your mood. Many colours have associations and can impact the way you feel.

According to a study done in 2017, blue light was found to be more relaxing than normal white light, and people relaxed three times more quickly in the blue light. Additionally, LED lighting has been associated with decreased stress and anxiety levels in indoor spaces.

Moreover, green LED lights have been noted to increase relaxation due to their connection with nature and earthy tones. And red LED lights have been theorised to help stimulate melatonin production. Melatonin is the naturally occurring hormone that lets the body know it is to rest and sleep. Usually, this hormone gets released more when it gets dark outside.

Additionally, pink and yellow lighting can create positive energy in your environment.

Psychology and biology tips

Now, I am not saying you should learn to love the holidays. If you simply do not like them, that is fine. But if you struggle during the holidays because of negative associations and memories, there are ways to train your brain to frame it positively.

Happy and stress hormones

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The brain is not designed to be happy, it is for survival. So the happy hormones (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins) are released and metabolised very quickly to motivate us to do more to stimulate them.

Unfortunately, you can end up with unhappy hormones on the journey to getting happy hormones. The stress hormone cortisol can result in many undesirable symptoms.

Positive and negative thoughts

man falling carton boxes with negative words
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It is said that we can have approximately 12,000 to 60,000 (or more) thoughts a day. And of these thoughts, nearly 90% are repeating thoughts, and most (80%) tend to be negative. This is not good, as negative thoughts have a bigger impact than positive ones.

The most common negative thoughts tend to be under these categories:

  • ‘Always/Never’ thinking
  • Focus on negative
  • Predicting the future
  • Reading peoples minds
  • Emotional thinking
  • Guilting yourself
  • Labelling
  • Personalising events

A how-to list

  1. Observe your thoughts: We are creatures of habit, so you will find that the same negative thoughts return. Once you find the trend, you can really get down to the issues and start thinking of resolutions.
  2. Daily positivity: When you go to bed, reflect on your day and pick out at least three positives. Even the smallest things – if it was positive for you.
  3. Practice gratitude: Research has found that practising gratitude can be good for you mentally and physically. You can do this by keeping a gratitude journal. Or you can express gratitude as you feel it – letting the people around you know you are thankful for them and all they do.
  4. Surround yourself with positivity: Emotions can be contagious. Surround yourself with people who inspire the positive within you. This can result in your frameshifting and your ability to see more positively.
  5. Train your subconscious: Once you have done all the above, you should gradually notice your thoughts be more positive. However, this is a continuous work in progress. You must continue to train your brain to see and think positively because the more you think negatively, the more it becomes your reality.

Final thoughts

No matter why you struggle at this time of year, I hope you found something within this article to help.

If you are really struggling, please get in touch with your GP or any of the helplines below:

You and your feelings are valid and important.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay on

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Final year Biology & Psychology student with a keen interest in music, food and lifestyle pieces.

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