In September I posted ‘5 Steps to a Surprisingly Happy Solo Birthday’ and had a lot of lovely feedback. With Thanksgiving (in the US) Hannukah and Christmas just around the corner, it felt like the right time to do the same for these other festive milestones. I’ve avoided an exhaustive ‘how to,’ as there’s plenty of that online. However I do think there are a few things worth bearing in mind as you go into the holiday season.
1. It’s okay to do what suits you.
There can be so much pressure around Christmas and other holidays – pressure to celebrate, pressure to socialise, pressure to follow traditions, pressure to eat too much and drink yourself to excess. Ultimately, there is pressure to be happy. And that’s an awful lot of pressure to lay on anyone – especially as we know that Christmas isn’t an easy time for everyone. So I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to spend Christmas (and other festive seasons) exactly as you like. If you want to celebrate, go for it. If you don’t, then I give you permission to spend it in exactly the same way as you would any other day. There is no single ‘right’ way to do the holidays, and no need to explain yourself to anyone else. You might find it interesting to read Tom, Yvonne, Maxine, Hilary and Bertie Boo Boo’s stories on spending Christmas in a variety of interesting and creative ways.
If you want to celebrate, then there are some simple things you can do to make the day lovely (my solo birthday blog is also worth a read at this point).
Decide what you want to eat, drink and do in advance, so that you have everything organised on the day. Cook yourself a beautiful meal – how about this roast dinner for one, or even a full Christmas dinner? Or you could try one of these alternative Christmas meal ideas from Delishably – whatever you choose, just make sure it’s something you’re really going to enjoy.
Buying yourself gifts in advance can also be fun. Just add yourself to your Christmas gift list, and either order gifts online or buy them in store. Gifts could be luxury items to add to your day – chocolates, champagne, bubble bath. They could be for your home – for example plant pots, wall art, cookware items. Or they could be experiences – plane tickets, theatre tickets, or even just some really good books. You can decide for yourself if you want to wrap them. If you buy gifts far enough in advance then you might even have forgotten what they are – making it all the more of a surprise on the day!
I’d also recommend forgoing the requirement to be happy, and remember that it’s okay not to always be okay. If you are dealing with loss, trauma, or making sense of a new way of life after a major life event, then it can sometimes help to recognise this during the holidays. This is very personal, and the way you do it needs to be something you feel comfortable with – these suggestions and ideas may help.
The most important thing is to shake off any sense of obligation to do things a certain way, and instead make the day work for you in exactly the way you need it to.
2. You haven’t failed because you’re not spending Christmas with other people
There’s still huge reluctance to admit that we are spending Christmas alone – and there is still stigma attached to being alone at a time of year associated with family.
At the Project, we know all too well that sometimes life just happens. Not everyone has family, or is in touch with their family, or able to get to them during the holidays. Not everyone has friends nearby – or friends we would want to spend Christmas with! Sometimes we get caught up in other things, and forget to look around and plan before it’s too late. Sometimes others may simply not realise we’re alone – and we may feel reluctant to reach out.
It’s so easy to beat yourself up over a solo Christmas, and to think that it’s somehow all your fault. Please don’t. It isn’t. Spending Christmas alone isn’t a sign that you have failed, and we’re here to reassure you that you’re okay, just as you are. Actually, you’re in good company, as millions of others around the world also spend Christmas by themselves. They are people who are interesting, and interested – just like you.
3. Holidays span seasons, not just individual days.
It’s easy to get fixated on the idea that we must ‘do’ a festive day in a certain way, and struggle with feelings of inadequacy in we feel we haven’t done it in a way which lives up to our own or others’ expectations. There’s a mindset shift that can help. By giving traditionally ‘important’ holiday dates only as much weight as we would give to any other day in the ‘holiday season’ (typically spanning a few days, or even a couple of weeks), we can take the pressure off of ourselves. Using Christmas Day as an example, this approach essentially recognises that it’s only one day of several days on which it’s possible to do Christmas dinners, drinks, games, films, Christmas markets, to go to church, and to do other seasonal activities with others. By putting Christmas Day in the context of all the other days around it, it suddenly starts to matter less that you don’t have company – you might even start thinking of Christmas Day as a moment of peace and light relief in an otherwise busy Christmas season!
4. Having said that, it IS still just one day.
Having said all of the above, we’re realistic about the pressure that still exists to ‘do’ certain days in a particular way. Ultimately, Christmas Day is just one day. If you’re spending Christmas alone and all you do is sleep, watch TV and eat, then that’s okay. Tomorrow is a new day.
5. Making Christmas about other people will literally make you happier.
If you really can’t bear the idea of spending Christmas alone, then make the day about someone else. Helping someone else out – either informally or through a volunteering programme – is one of the most powerful ways to lower your blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, release endorphins which make you feel happier, and improve mental health, confidence and self- esteem. Perhaps you know someone else who is spending Christmas by themselves – why not drop off a card and a mince pie first thing, and have a chat on the doorstep for a while? Check in on your elderly neighbours and say Merry Christmas – even if they’re coupled up. Arrange calls to friends or relatives who are having a difficult time, or do a ‘mystery drop’ of cards and sweets to all your neighbours and their kids (literally just leave these on the doorstep to be discovered later). You could also spend part of the day volunteering for a charity – there are thousands to choose from, and the easiest way to find one is to search online for ‘charities in [your town or county]’ then check their websites or give them a call to find out what’s going on.
As another holiday season approaches, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about all the things you ‘should’ be doing. Take the pressure off – you’re already doing really well. Pace yourself, and – where you can – do things that bring you joy. Above all, be kind – most of all to yourself.
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