How To Avoid Turning The Holidays into The Hellidays

Written by Dr. Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay

The holiday season is upon us. Everywhere I look I am greeted with reminders that Christmas is around the corner. I have to admit I love the look and smell of a douglas fir completely decorated with colorful and bright ornaments. It brings back wonderful childhood memories. To some of us, the holidays are a dreaded time of year. The bombardment of constant reminders may actually cause anxiety as we look forward to forced family fun time. Family get-togethers may bring flashbacks of past painful interactions.

Of course, we love our relatives but perhaps we also believe the expression “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Having to interact with family, during the holiday season, may feel like you are traveling back in time, to a place where you had no say and personal boundaries were nonexistent. The holidays can be stressful, therefore it is important to set the intention that this holiday season will be different. Use this opportunity for growth. Here are some suggestions to help you through the holidays.

1. Practice setting boundaries
The holidays are a great time to practice setting healthy personal boundaries. It is the perfect setting to speak up and be heard. It is also important to point out that you have no obligation to participate in any holiday event. Allow yourself to not participate without judging yourself.

2. Practice being okay with uncomfortable emotions
During the holidays you may experience uncomfortable emotions that you may not be able to immediately process. It is important to be able to sit with these uncomfortable feelings and avoid switching on the autopilot. By avoiding experiencing discomfort you also tend to avoid anything great in life. If you falter don’t be too hard on yourself. If there is one thing about life, it is that there are always more than enough uncomfortable moments to experience.

3. Create no drama
Even though I recommend that the holiday season is a great time to practice setting boundaries I am not suggesting that you use the opportunity to create an unpleasant environment for all. If someone is disrespectful to you, politely ask to speak to them in private. You are more likely to get your point across if you deliver your message in a calm and respectful manner.

4. Plan your exit
If you do attend your family gathering allow yourself to leave early. It is best to leave on a good note than to make a hasty exit in anger or frustration.

5. Make new memories
Perhaps it is time you start diluting some of the bad memories you have about the holidays by making new positive memories. It’s very easy for us to bring up bad memories when we don’t have anything positive to reflect on.

6. Reframe how you feel about the holidays
It is important to remember to be grateful for our family. Many of us have experienced death and illness this past year and are mourning the loss of a loved one or of our health. Perhaps if we truly realized how quickly life can change it would allow us to be more tolerant of our loved ones. By learning to respect one another’s boundaries we can then enjoy more quality time with the people we love.

I would love to hear how you feel about the holiday season and what do you do to cope with the stress of the holidays? I also want to take the opportunity to wish all of you and your families a very happy and healthy holiday season. From my family to yours I wish you well.

Please note, I am unable to answer your mental health questions as I am unaware of the specific details regarding your concerns. If you would like to schedule a free 20-minute consultation with me to see if we would be a good fit to work together please click here to email my assistant, Isabel.

Dr. Perry

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology

“I specialize in a solution-focused approach to treating depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and narcissistic abuse.”
Verified by Psychology Today

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107 responses to How To Avoid Turning The Holidays into The Hellidays

  1. OverChristmas says:

    Great title and post. I personally dislike the holidays. Everyone seems so stressed and I can wait for it to be over.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Hilary Tan says:

    I have mixed feelings about the holidays. I’m not particularly close to my family and my direct family can be quite toxic. I can’t stand being here longer than a week and am ready to leave, and Christmas isn’t even here yet 🙄

    Liked by 7 people

  3. Dee says:

    It’s so true that we can reframe how we feel about this time of year. Excellent point. Also, I love how you say we can dilute the negativity in our lives by having more positive experiences. Merry Xmas!

    Liked by 8 people

  4. J♡ says:

    I love the holidays, but my anxiety goes through the roof just thinking about the family get togethers. I love spending time with my family and my in-laws, but sensory overload leaves me kind of ‘light’s on, no one is home’. Fibromyalgia and depression don’t help. Thankfully, I can count on my husband to keep me grounded when things get overwhelming. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Dr. Perry!

    Liked by 8 people

  5. sobhanajm says:

    Thank you for this great post, very timely, Dr. Perry! I personally enjoy the holidays. I take time off, do very little online, stay away from my phone and laptop, do very little shopping and generally stay away from the “norm”. I give very few gifts and receive even fewer. I ask my sons (21 & 18) to write me, draw me or bake me something, it is so precious to receive their words, art or food items as a gift. As Dr. perry said, it is all about reframing, being authentic and being grateful. Best of the season to you, Dr. Perry!

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you for your sharing your experience! Have a wonderful holiday season and happy new year✨

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Joyful2bee says:

    My son has bad memories of Christmas because of his father. At 35 he still has triggers that causes his anger to flare. We talked about this recently. He has made great strides in healing. I will share this post with him. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 7 people

  7. Amanda Cade says:

    I wasn’t sure about commenting, because I’m blessed with a wonderful family and I love spending the holidays with them.
    However, I do have friends who are not so lucky, and so I can recognize the value of this great advice (and I’ll definitely be passing it on). Your blog is such an amazing resource, and I’m so glad I discovered it.
    Happy holidays, Dr. Perry.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Great title! Holidays can be a bit stressful, but for myself, memories of Christmas past and making new ones bring me great joy. Thank you for your inspiring posts throughout the year, I thoroughly enjoy reading them. Many blessings to you and your family. Happy Holidays 🎄

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Mary Lou says:

    Dr. Perry ~ It’s always a gift when you find people who validate own ‘holding space for yourself’. You’re one of those blogs/people! Thank you and wishing you blessing and joy throughout the holidays and the new year. ❤

    Liked by 6 people

  10. AllyNikk says:

    I love the holidays! As someone with divorced parents, the thought of having to attend 2 separate family gatherings can provoke anxiety. However, both of my families are on good terms and understand, so we’ll usually do one family on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas. It works out wonderfully, but I am a people-pleaser which is where my unnecessary holiday anxiety comes in. I am grateful that my families are on great terms with one another! Not many people are that fortunate. Merry Christmas Dr. Perry!!! xo

    Liked by 6 people

  11. I actually really love Christmas holidays, but there are certain family members who do bring their drama – it is an opportunity to practice setting boundaries, for sure. I appreciate your kind advice and wonderful sharing of how to navigate what, for many, is not a happy time. And I wish you all the peace, joy, and blessings the season can bring and many, many blessings throughout the New Year.

    Liked by 6 people

  12. onmamasmind says:

    I have become better at holidays and the accompanying family get togethers after settling into motherhood, though the workload has of course tripled…This year, I feel I didn’t make half of the preparations that I intended so I’m practicing the mantra ‘good enough, it’s all good enough’…
    Happy holidays!

    Liked by 6 people

  13. Kitkat says:

    Merry Christmas 🎄Dr. Perry! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. I appreciate the time you take to create such a healthy and positive environment.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Comments like yours make it all worth it. Merry Christmas to you and your family✨

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Enjoyed your tips Dr Perry. I always get a little anxious at Christmas but am hoping that I am less emotional this year and feel I will cope much better. Not at my place this year so less expectation as well. Thank you

    Liked by 5 people

  15. Christmas can be bloody lonely time of year, the point about uncomfortable emotions is very supportive.

    I never know what I want (mainly because the house is cluttered enough as it is) but I get that the whole rationale of gift giving is knowing people well enough that you’d know exactly what they’d want. It can easily feel like all those people madly rushing around the shops have tons and tons of friends & happy loving relationships. What I would ask for Christmas (a diatonic accordion) I’d rather buy myself; the reason being something like that has got to be invested in wisely & requires quite a bit of knowledge to make an informed decision before parting with any money; (e.g. what music I’d want to play, what keys, what types of row patterns etc.) they’re not cheap and not as widely available guitars are. As for the original I’d say Christmas is definitely a peak time of year for loneliness.

    Liked by 6 people

  16. miriamspia says:

    Over time, of course I have noticed that not every holiday season is the same, in part due to changes in circumstances in people lives: in this case, children growing up and elders growing old is considered to be part of this.

    This year, is different again. On some level I think I am trying to hide feeling hurt and loss but on other levels I’m actually experiencing the blessing of inner peace and it is just different with adult child/ren and divorced/single compared to married-adult-children, not married but parenting; and of course the original matter of being a baby so young one doesn’t care; being a young child incredibly excited about it…parenting children for the holiday and all of that. This year is: adult child with whom I sadly won’t be spending the holiday but almost did last year and the year before; some ability to visit with older relatives I felt very lucky to get time with at the holidays other years….and whatnot. I’m nearly 51 years old now, so the vibe is that whole: still middle aged, but deeply middle aged and closer to old.

    Liked by 5 people

      • Dr. Perry says:

        This is interesting. I’m curious. How did the group deal with it? Or did one individual take care of it?

        Liked by 2 people

        • One individual, the closest to him, embraced him, and sort of produced a collective sigh of relief. He was new to the group and I really don’t think anyone expected or was prepared for what he let out. The group, at least since I’ve been attending, has never gotten that personal before. None of us were really sure how to react, which is interesting. We’ve sort have built walls to protect ourselves from feeling, when feeling is really what we need to do.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Dr. Perry says:

            Great point and so true. Even in the therapy room it takes awhile for individuals to feel comfortable expressing their feelings.

            Liked by 3 people

            • I think a group therapy session would be tough for a lot of people. I know that some of the people closest to me, that I’ve truly opened up to, have hurt me. Makes you gun shy.

              Liked by 3 people

              • Dr. Perry says:

                I’m sorry to hear this Harold. Some people are just not worthy of our trust. Luckily there are a lot of good people out there. But, we do have to be careful who we let into our inner school. I wish you a very happy holiday season. Also I’m waiting for chapter 2 of the last story you wrote. You are a natural story teller✨

                Liked by 3 people

                • Thanks! All part of growing. I hope you have a wonderful holiday too 🙂 Chapter 2 is coming, it will meander a bit, but it ill set the stage for Chapter 3 🙂 If I get off track, you’ll have to tell me 🙂 So glad you like my writing. I love telling stories

                  Liked by 3 people

  17. gohealthy says:

    Amazing post, Dr. Perry, as always! And what a unique topic and problem to address! I’ve never read about stressful family get-togethers, though every word you wrote is true. It is also true that holiday season is a great opportunity to transform relationships for good. Thanks for the lovely share! Wish you too a happy and healthy holiday season and endless years of writing great posts! 😊

    Liked by 5 people

  18. I needed to hear this today. Since I lost my husband I have grown to hate Christmas and tend to ‘suffer’ it rather than enjoy it; I hope that maybe this year will be different if I set some boundaries and don’t beat myself up if I can’t get my jolly on. Thanks Dr Perry and Merry Christmas to you and your family xx

    Liked by 4 people

  19. Purple Rose says:

    Great tips Dr. Perry! Number 5 is something I finally understood and was able to do eventually after having two years of devastating Christmas time memories.

    I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

    Liked by 5 people

  20. drobryant says:

    I love this post! I’ve been dealing with holiday anxiety most of my adult life. When I was younger, it was more enjoyable, but once I hit adulthood things changed.

    Liked by 5 people

  21. Steve says:

    I am using these tips this year. Also the most important thing I am doing this year is giving myself permission to leave if things get rough.

    Liked by 4 people

  22. I never celebrated the holidays until the advent of grandchildren. I’ve never looked back. This will be the first christmas in 17 years where it wasn’t a gathering of family and friends sharing a meal playing games and then opening presents on christmas. It is a little disconcerting but it is what it is. Due to horrific storm, power outs downed trees closure upon closre on highways and roads and one fatality as a result, this is a concerning upsetting time for those involved. We have regained power but no water for the forseeable future so no special dinner. However I am looking forward to the little ones opening their presents before they journey onto their vacation. I sincerely hope all enjoy a wonderful time with family and friends, focusing on the reason we gather together, to share, to give and to receive while hopefully overlooking issues that can unhinge the occasion. Merry Christmas to one and all 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  23. Wonderfull advice, Dr Perry. As I write, my husband and visiting brother-in-law are having a heated discussion on Brexit! I’ve deployed my emergency headphones, engaged noise-cancelling mode and chilling to some music. Aaaand breathe!
    Thank you for the wonderful advice this year 🙂
    Wishing you and yours a very peaceful holiday and a prosperous New Year.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. JogWithJosh says:

    Very nice write up. Accurate also. For me the holidays are exactly that time traveling back to a place where I could not flex personal boundaries being young and such.. an alcoholic father was drunk typically on Christmas growing up so there has always been something in the way of “real bonding” and thus my experience with Christmas seems to me more like a phoney facade to drink get drunk and such.. and I as well when I was in full swing addiction as a result of my traumas growing up found myself using more heavily around this time of year.. thankfully this year has been slightly different in that, I am no longer using .. and last nights dinner went alcohol free .. for everyone.. not certain if that’s because of me.. but my dad has still been drinking pretty regular up until yesterday.. I think they maybe coming to they’re senses that it’s not too much to ask that if they want me over for dinner – being in recovery it’s kind of polite to skip the holiday wine.. at least until I leave. All in all I’m not a huge fan of this time of year so I’m going for a jog here soon 😉 and then some studying. Happy holidays to all who read my comment, and Dr. Perry’s fabulous post

    Liked by 3 people

  25. CattleCapers says:

    I liked the term, “Hellidays”. Since my parents are elderly, I try to remind myself that this could potentially be our last Christmas together and try to be patient.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Danielle says:

    Should have read this before Christmas with my in laws! But, I’m glad I read it before New Year’s Eve party! Thank you Doc

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Thank you for this post. With A large family we totally tried to delete the commercial side of Christmas. Silly old Santa, a mythical creature who gets all the glory instead of stressed parents. Your blogs are very topical and necessary to the next generation who are bombarded in their minds. I shared this post with my son. Keep sharing your talents.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Mae. says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. Setting boundaries is so helpful. It can be difficult if your new to setting boundaries. Family or friends may be offended at first or… Perhaps impressed.

    I struggle with my husband not always agreeing with me or needing to say no as often.

    Liked by 2 people

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