The holidays are considered by many to be the most wonderful time of the year. However, it is also considered by many that this time of year is stressful, anxiety-inducing, lonely, and a painful reminder of loved ones who are no longer here.

I've struggled with the holidays for years, but it culminated at the age of 18 when my parents were in the midst of a nasty separation brought about by years of infidelity and lies. I seldom talk about that painful time because I love my parents, and I have compassion for them as flawed as they may be. But because I still carry that pain with me, I find it exceptionally difficult to be happy this time of year. I try to focus on the good, but the sadness always finds a way in. I thought after I got married that my feelings would change, but if anything they've become magnified. My husband's family has welcomed me in with open arms, they've welcomed my mother. But things just aren't the same as they used to be and there's no substitute for having my family together. My mom used to love Christmas (I mean, she did name me Noelle). We hosted my dad's side of the family every year, and she would go all out decorating our home for them. That stopped immediately after their divorce, and I haven't seen many of those family members in over a decade. I see how painful the holidays can be for her, and it breaks my heart too.

Of course, there are so many reasons to feel the holiday blues. If you're having family conflict, if your year wasn't all that you hoped it would be, if you have unresolved issues with a loved one, maybe you lost your job recently - the list goes on and on and on. There's no magic answer to any of it, but I have discovered that there are some fairly simple ways I can beat the blues, and my hope is that they may be helpful to you as well.

 1. Be financially responsible
     We all want to be Santa Claus and make friends and family feel good with lavish gifts, but if you can't afford it then simply don't buy it. This is when saving and buying presents throughout the year rather than all at once comes into play. I know it's easier said than done, but honestly I always feel awful when someone buys me an expensive gift knowing full well that they are struggling financially. Instead, have them over for some drinks, cook them a nice meal, or offer to watch their kids for a night. Giving doesn't have to mean depleting your own bank account in the process.

2. Be social...
    I never realized how bad my social anxiety was until I remembered some painful memories from my childhood where I'd lock myself in my room for hours on end. I was even afraid to talk with my parents. I was 5 years old. That feeling of wanting to be left alone and wanting to shut the whole world out is so strong for me, but I have learned that it doesn't do me any good, it reinforces negative thoughts, and it makes the people in my life question whether or not I even like them. When you're struggling, that's when you need to push yourself to get out there and be around others. It will most likely feel uncomfortable at first, but then you'll be smiling and laughing and having a great time and it'll lift your mood pretty quickly.

3. But also take time for yourself
    Hey, sometimes we all need a little alone time. The holidays can be so chaotic and stressful, and there is such a thing as being a bit too social. Don't neglect yourself just to please everyone around you. Take walks in the evenings, listen to some relaxing music on your way to work, go somewhere delicious for lunch - anything that allows you some breathing room.

4. Stop comparing your holiday
    This is a big one for me. And I'm not just talking about social media, I'm talking about comparing your holiday outlook and traditions against neighbors, friends, even other family members who may do things differently than you do. I may not have an opulent home that's decorated to look like a cover of Better Homes and Gardens. There's no snowy winter wonderland around these parts. I don't wear cute pajamas in full hair and makeup while I'm carefully perched on a pristine white ottoman so Nate can capture it all for the 'gram. We don't buy each other lavish gifts. We don't yet have children to see the magic of Christmas through their eyes. What we do have is unique to us, and that's perfectly okay. If comparison is the thief of joy, then let. it. all. go.

5. Make your own traditions
    When I was growing up, we never had a real tree. Don't get me wrong, artificial trees are beautiful, and less of a mess! But I always wanted one and now that I'm an adult, guess what? I get a real live tree. Things don't have to be the way they are. Change them. Make your own traditions.

6. Own your feelings
    Sometimes, nothing helps. People who have experienced trauma or profound loss, or people who have a mental illness are susceptible to greater levels of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and anger during a time of year when everyone is supposed to be happy and joyful. But what if you just can't be? Maybe you lost a loved one recently, maybe it happened decades ago but the pain of not having that person is still very raw? You don't always need to push yourself to put on a happy face. I personally am quite good at acting like everything's fine when in reality it's not. There are days when the tears flow easily, and when I can't pretend and it's perfectly normal and even cathartic to allow yourself to feel those emotions and let them wash over you. Don't, I repeat, do not feel guilty about having them.

7. Practice gratitude and help others
    I often find that helping others is really one of the only truly important tasks in life. I'm not religious, but I do believe in God and karma and humanity. The times where I think I've felt God's presence is when I have been of service to my fellow human beings, or even to an animal. Donate your time, reach out to someone you know struggles this time of year, give money to a charity instead of buying another gift. For the last couple years, Nate and I donate money to a charity of our choice in each other's name. We have a running list of charities we love to support, and we surprise each other with which one we chose for the year and why. It's a lovely gift idea and one we will continue to do every Christmas.

Although the holiday blues are very real for many people, it doesn't have to define the entire season for us. We can still feel them (and own them) while also experiencing moments of happiness, gratitude, and hope for the new year.

Unfortunately, I must leave this here just in case you or someone you know is truly on the edge:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Linking up with On The Daily Express and Straight A Style


  1. This was such a beautiful, thoughtful post Noelle! I so appreciate your sensitivity to this topic and your candid sharing of your own difficult experiences. You really have a gift for taking on these challenging topics and I admire that. I can also say that you genuinely have a heart of gold, and you deserve any and all doses of happiness that comes your way this holiday season. I truly hope you have some bright moments this season. Thank you for your friendship!! You are cherished. :)

  2. Noelle this was so well writtem and I love your tips on combating holiday blues. I also endured a lot of conflicts during the holidays but it was more between my sister and the rest of the family (I had the role of family peace maker unfortunately). I won't get into it but I still have ptsd from the stress of the conflicts she caused for many many years.

    I definitely already implement your tips 2 and 3 and need to work on the other ones as well :) We also have built our own Christmas tradition now that everyone looks forward too.

    Hope you enjoy a merry Christmas with your loved ones. If you are ever in my area this time of the year, you are welcome to join us for our annual Christmas breakfast :)

  3. Hi Noelle, tips 1, 5 and 7 are the ones that really help me around the holidays. However, I do find it hard answering nosy people when they ask so what did you get your husband or what did he get you? What really fills my heart and when we serve others no gift can make me feel the way serving others does.


Thank you for commenting! I read each and every one, and do my best to answer questions or return the favor on your blog.