I used to love Christmas – picking a tree, decorating, making cookies, finding just the right gifts – but not so much anymore. When my husband and I separated 10 years ago, things changed. And they’ve continued to change ever since; to the point that I start to dread the holiday season around early November and I don’t feel a sense of relief until January 2nd rolls around.

My boys were eight and 11 when we split. And for years I tried to maintain the Christmas traditions that we had as a family. It was the one time of year that we were all together again and that we could pretend (for the kids and probably a little for me too) that despite this new family configuration, the big things – like Christmas – would be as merry as ever. Turns out that the more you try to make something seem okay, the less it really is (you’d think I would know that as a counsellor). In fact, the more you try to make something seem okay, the greater the chance of disappointment, resentment, and major mishaps.

Like the year I did all the cooking, planning, and merry-making so the holiday would be perfect for the kids, my ex-husband, his girlfriend, and my ex-mother-in-law. By the time Christmas afternoon rolled around I was so exhausted that I bailed on cooking the turkey, told everyone they could eat crackers and cheese, and went for a two-hour drive. Then there was the year we all went to Mexico (minus mother-in-law) while you still had to test for COVID before returning or face several more weeks in Mexico during the most expensive time of year. That was relaxing. And then there was the pièce de résistance last year when my new(ish) dog bit my ex-husband’s girlfriend (the one and only time he’s bitten anyone) on Christmas day. That went as well as it sounds.

So what have I learned from all of this…? I’ve learned (finally) that you can’t force things into being what they are not. Things change. People and families change, and if you don’t try to change with them, you will likely be disappointed, exhausted, or both. I’ve learned that it’s okay if everything is not perfect and I’m working very hard to slow down and find joy in the little moments – whatever they are. And most importantly, I’ve learned that I’m not alone. There are lots and lots of people who struggle with loneliness, sadness, and depression at this time of year and who feel like ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ isn’t so wonderful after all.

A few ways to battle the holiday blues:

  • Treat YOURSELF. Don’t have a big list of folks to buy for? Treat yourself to a gift or activity that you’ve had your eye on.
  • Move your body. Exercise, even a little, can make a world of difference to how you feel during the holidays and every day.
  • Reach out to someone else. It really does feel better to give than to receive so consider reaching out to someone else who might be feeling isolated and alone during the holidays. Older people, in particular, often spend the holidays alone.
  • Avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope. Most substances are depressants that will actually make you feel worse, not better, over the long term.
  • Get outside! There is nothing more cathartic than witnessing all the true gifts from mother nature.
  • Remember…you are not alone in feeling this way and it’s okay to reach out for help.

We’re here to help. Reach out for a 15 free consultation by filling out the short form at the bottom of this link. www.strongcounselling.com/low-cost-counselling/