9 ways to survive the holidays.

It’s that time of year again! Why write a brand new article about surviving the holidays when this old one will do just as well?

You may be one of those people who really gets into the holiday season, but if you’re not (and believe me, if you’re not, you’re far from alone), here are some great ways to survive it (and even enjoy it in spite of yourself)!

Lucky Otters Haven

Originally posted on 12/12/15

holiday-stress-2011

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas season is officially here. That means crowded stores, grumpy drivers clogging the roads on their way to and from said stores, horrible office Christmas parties, commercials showing perfect happy families living in big houses with tons of relatives all appearing to love each other (are they TRYING to make us jealous?), fake cheerfulness, fake sleigh bells (did anyone ever REALLY go on a sleigh ride?), horrible canned Christmas music you cannot escape from, “Jingle Bell Rock” (quite possibly the most annoying Christmas song ever) playing endlessly on every pop music station, and maybe worst of all, the shortest days of the year. It’s dark in the morning when you get up for work, and it’s dark again at 5 PM when you get off.

All this is enough to make you want to shoot yourself in the head. But…

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9 ways to survive the holidays.

Originally posted on 12/12/15

holiday-stress-2011

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas season is officially here. That means crowded stores, grumpy drivers clogging the roads on their way to and from said stores, horrible office Christmas parties, commercials showing perfect happy families living in big houses with tons of relatives all appearing to love each other (are they TRYING to make us jealous?), fake cheerfulness, fake sleigh bells (did anyone ever REALLY go on a sleigh ride?), horrible canned Christmas music you cannot escape from, “Jingle Bell Rock” (quite possibly the most annoying Christmas song ever) playing endlessly on every pop music station, and maybe worst of all, the shortest days of the year. It’s dark in the morning when you get up for work, and it’s dark again at 5 PM when you get off.

All this is enough to make you want to shoot yourself in the head. But don’t do that!  There are better ways to deal with this often infuriating and, for many, depressing time of year. And remember, it’s only for a month.

Many of us who were raised in narcissistic or dysfunctional families don’t have good associations with Christmas and the holidays in general. On top of this, Christmas has become over-commercialized and even people from normal, happy families get stressed. Everywhere you go, there are messages telling you to be cheerful and “jolly” and ads telling you to buy, buy, and buy some more. People who don’t have families (or have dysfunctional families) or don’t have a lot of money often feel marginalized, as if they’re defective because they can’t fully participate in all the hoopla or be as happy as the wealthy, perfect (and annoying) people they see in TV commercials. The days are also short and gloomy. No wonder depression is so common this time of year.

Even if you dread the holidays, it’s still possible to enjoy them. I used to stress myself into a frenzy every Christmas. When you have small children, it’s easy to do this if money is tight, which it almost always was for us. After all, children are expecting Santa to come with his bag of gifts, and they will not understand if gifts are few. But kids being around also make Christmas fun. Now that my kids are adults, I’ve learned to not stress so much about Christmas. It’s still not my favorite time of year, but here are some ways you can make the most of it. Even though I still dread the holidays, I almost always wind up having a great time.

1. Treat Christmas like a second Thanksgiving.

foodquote7

Thanksgiving is probably the least commercialized holiday. In fact, it’s so underrated that now it’s been nearly co-opted by Black Friday, and stores remain open on Thanskgiving so people can get a head start on their Christmas shopping.
On Thanksgiving, the focus is on food, eating, and football. For the past few years, I’ve focused on the food at Christmas rather than the gifts. I give a few inexpensive or homemade gifts, but I spend more of my time and energy on cooking. My spinach-meat lasagna has become a family tradition rather than the usual turkey (I’m usually turkey’d out after a month of eating turkey, turkey soup, and turkey sandwiches) and the lasagna I make has all the Christmas colors too. (I’ll post my recipe later on). Add a salad and some garlic bread and some kind of pie (usually apple for us), and we’re good to go. Everyone’s so busy enjoying the food they barely register the fact the gifts are few.

2. Bake cookies (or other baked goods) and give them as gifts.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on presents. Everyone loves cookies and they can be wrapped in attractive and creative ways and given as gifts. If you’ve baked the cookies yourself, it can be a more thoughtful and personal gift than something you got from the store. If you prefer, bake a pie and wrap it like an Easter basket in red and green cellophane with a bow on top. Even a prettily wrapped basket of fruit can make a thoughtful gift.

3. Give handmade gifts.
I make suncatchers made of bits of glass, stone and small mirrors and they make terrific gifts. I haven’t made any in about a year, but I have several still around that I plan to give as gifts this year. Each one is unique and everyone appreciates them. Years ago, when I had a kiln, I used to paint ceramic tiles. People loved those too. If you paint, make jewelry, knit, or do any other kind of arts and crafts, think about making your gifts instead of buying them. People will appreciate the time and effort that went into making such a personal and unique gift.

4. Remember that the days are now becoming longer.

WinterSolsticeHappy

If you’re like me (I suffer from SAD), the short days of this time of year can get you down. But there’s an upside too. Starting the first day of winter, the days start growing longer! Christmas was originally a pagan holiday to celebrate the “return of the sun”–the winter solstice. Remind yourself of the lengthening days and try not to think about the cold months ahead.   As of the first day of Winter, there are ONLY THREE MORE MONTHS UNTIL SPRING!   That’s great news for SAD sufferers like me!

5. Do something special for yourself.
If you’re not blessed with a big, boisterous family–or even if you have no one to spend Christmas with, you can still enjoy the day. Make it special: give (or make) yourself a gift, go to a movie, take a long walk, or a long luxurious bath. Also, you can remind yourself that sometimes big family get-togethers can turn into unpleasant drama fests. Remind yourself that you’re spared from that.

6. Volunteer.

volunteer

Most churches sponsor Christmas dinners. Other organizations do too. If you don’t have a family to spend the day with, or you have negative memories associated with this time of year, consider donating your time to preparing or serving food to take your mind off your woes. You might even meet others in the same boat and wind up making new friends and having a great time.

7. It’s only one day.
Even though the Christmas season can seem endless, it’s all leading up to one day, and then it’s all over for another whole year.

8. Skip Christmas this year.
I’m serious. If Christmas really stresses you out, consider skipping it altogether. Explain to your friends and family that you need a break from the stress and assure them it’s nothing personal. If they’re true friends they will understand. If you’re a Christian, you will not offend Jesus if you skip Christmas. The Bible doesn’t tell us we have to celebrate his birthday.

9. Remember what Christmas is really all about.

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

In spite of what all the commercials tell us, Christmas isn’t about the trees, Santa Claus, reindeer and gifts. It’s about the birth of Jesus Christ. Most churches have some sort of Christmas service. Consider attending and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas instead of all the material trappings. Watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” always a treat for me.

9 ways to survive the holidays.

holiday-stress-2011

Many of us who were raised in narcissistic families or come from abusive backgrounds don’t have good associations with Christmas and the holidays in general. On top of this, Christmas has become overcommercialized and even people from normal, happy families get stressed. Everywhere you go, there are messages telling you to be cheerful and “jolly” and ads telling you to buy, buy, and buy some more. People who don’t have families (or have dysfunctional families) or don’t have a lot of money often feel marginalized, as if they’re defective because they can’t fully participate in all the hoopla or be as happy as the wealthy, perfect (and annoying) people they see in TV commercials. The days are also short and gloomy. No wonder depression is so common this time of year.

Even if you dread the holidays, it’s still possible to enjoy them. I used to stress myself into a frenzy every Christmas. When you have small children, it’s easy to do this if money is tight, which it almost always was for us. After all, children are expecting Santa to come with his bag of gifts, and they will not understand if gifts are few. But kids being around also make Christmas fun. Now that my kids are adults, I’ve learned to not stress so much about Christmas. It’s still not my favorite time of year, but here are some ways you can make the most of it. Even though I still dread the holidays, I almost always wind up having a great time.

1. Treat Christmas like a second Thanksgiving.

foodquote7

Thanksgiving is probably the least commercialized holiday. In fact, it’s so underrated that now it’s been nearly co-opted by Black Friday, and stores remain open on Thanskgiving so people can get a head start on their Christmas shopping.
On Thanksgiving, the focus is on food, eating, and football. For the past few years, I’ve focused on the food at Christmas rather than the gifts. I give a few inexpensive or homemade gifts, but I spend more of my time and energy on cooking. My spinach-meat lasagna has become a family tradition rather than the usual turkey (I’m usually turkey’d out after a month of eating turkey, turkey soup, and turkey sandwiches) and the lasagna I make has all the Christmas colors too. (I’ll post my recipe later on). Add a salad and some garlic bread and some kind of pie (usually apple for us), and we’re good to go. Everyone’s so busy enjoying the food they barely register the fact the gifts are few.

2. Bake cookies (or other baked goods) and give them as gifts.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on presents. Everyone loves cookies and they can be wrapped in attractive and creative ways and given as gifts. If you’ve baked the cookies yourself, it can be a more thoughtful and personal gift than something you got from the store. If you prefer, bake a pie and wrap it like an Easter basket in red and green cellophane with a bow on top. Even a prettily wrapped basket of fruit can make a thoughtful gift.

3. Give handmade gifts.
I make suncatchers made of bits of glass, stone and small mirrors and they make terrific gifts. I haven’t made any in about a year, but I have several still around that I plan to give as gifts this year. Each one is unique and everyone appreciates them. Years ago, when I had a kiln, I used to paint ceramic tiles. People loved those too. If you paint, make jewelry, knit, or do any other kind of arts and crafts, think about making your gifts instead of buying them. People will appreciate the time and effort that went into making such a personal and unique gift.

4. Remember that the days are now becoming longer.

WinterSolsticeHappy

If you’re like me (I suffer from SAD), the short days of this time of year can get you down. But there’s an upside too. Starting the first day of winter, the days start growing longer! Christmas was originally a pagan holiday to celebrate the “return of the sun”–the winter solstice. Remind yourself of the lengthening days and try not to think about the cold months ahead.

5. Do something special for yourself.
If you’re not blessed with a big, boisterous family–or even if you have no one to spend Christmas with, you can still enjoy the day. Make it special: give (or make) yourself a gift, go to a movie, take a long walk, or a long luxurious bath. Also, you can remind yourself that sometimes big family get-togethers can turn into unpleasant drama fests. Remind yourself that you’re spared from that.

6. Volunteer.

volunteer

Most churches sponsor Christmas dinners. Other organizations do too. If you don’t have a family to spend the day with, or you have negative memories associated with this time of year, consider donating your time to preparing or serving food to take your mind off your woes. You might even meet others in the same boat and wind up making new friends and having a great time.

7. It’s only one day.
Even though the Christmas season can seem endless, it’s all leading up to one day, and then it’s all over for another whole year.

8. Skip Christmas this year.
I’m serious. If Christmas really stresses you out, consider skipping it altogether. Explain to your friends and family that you need a break from the stress and assure them it’s nothing personal. If they’re true friends they will understand. If you’re a Christian, you will not offend Jesus if you skip Christmas. The Bible doesn’t tell us we have to celebrate his birthday.

9. Remember what Christmas is really all about.

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

In spite of what all the commercials tell us, Christmas isn’t about the trees, Santa Claus, reindeer and gifts. It’s about the birth of Jesus Christ. Most churches have some sort of Christmas service. Consider attending and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas instead of all the material trappings. Watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” always a treat for me.

Surviving the holidays

charliebrown

I relate to Charlie Brown. As a kid, “Peanuts” was my favorite comic strip (I owned all the Peanuts books too), and Charlie Brown was a lot like me–fearful of what others thought of him, frequently bullied and taken advantage of, and often pessimistic. But he also had a good heart, and his faithful dog Snoopy brought joy to his life when he was ready to give up. So I have used some photos from the classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in my post.

The holidays are a rough time for many people, but they are especially hard on those of us who have been victims of narcissistic abuse and been cut off (or have gone No Contact) with our families. It sure doesn’t help either that I have SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and become very depressed during the shortest and coldest days of the year.

I have described the way my MN mother has systemically, through triangulation, scapegoating and gaslighting of me as well as making good use of the flying monkeys in her own extended family, has cut me off from all my relatives who I never knew very well anyway. She has even recruited some of the relatives on my father’s side into her evil campaign against me. I am the family embarrassment and black sheep.

Even though I have gone No Contact with my mother and several other family members, I feel I would have been eventually cut off completely from them anyway. I’ve almost certainly been written out of both her and my father’s wills. My mother’s extended family and friends don’t know me; they only believe the vicious lies what she tells them about me–what an ungrateful and selfish daughter I am (and how narcissistic I am too), what a pathetic loser I am (because I’m poor and haven’t achieved a high status career the way they all have), what stupid choices I make, and how emotionally unstable and crazy I am. It’s obvious she’s projecting some of her own character defects onto me (a red flag for narcissism if there ever was one), but knowing this doesn’t make her hateful comments and lies hurt any less–and some of them have a grain of truth–especially the picture she’s painted of me as an impoverished “loser” and that I was always destined to fail (because I was programmed and trained to fail).

It hurts like hell to know how hated I am by my own family. Even as a child I sensed my mother hated me, because I was an exceedingly sensitive child and she could never understand that. She also knew I could see right through her, even when I was a toddler. Knowing that my family hates me has done enormous damage to my self image and crippled me in succeeding in life. I was programmed by her to fail. My being a success would have been a huge danger to her.

Because of my C-PTSD and suspiciousness and lack of trust of others (and due to being naturally introverted), I  find it very hard to socialize and make friends because I have so much trouble reading social cues and knowing the right thing to say at the right time (for years, I thought I had Aspergers). It seems that my only social life is on the Internet. I’m afraid to get close to people because I’m afraid they might hate me if they knew me too well. So I spent most of my time alone, reading, blogging, and interacting with my sweet and loyal pets, who never judge me and accept me for who I am. I actually prefer it that way. I relish my time alone, without the stress of having to be “on” in social situations. I’m never really lonely, and I’m free to be myself without fear of judgment.

CHARLIE BROWN TRIES TO PERK UP THE FORLORN LITTLE CHRISTMAS TREE

But the holidays are hard because I am so alone in the world. Thanksgiving is coming up this week, and I’ve made absolutely no plans, because there is no one to make plans with. My only immediate family that has anything to do with me (or are still alive) are my son and daughter. But my son lives several states away and there is no way either he or I can afford to travel to be together, and my daughter has moved in with her boyfriend, and although she says she will be around on Thanksgiving, her word is about as reliable as a Nigerian email scam. She will probably find some excuse to not show up.

It’s very difficult for me to listen to people all around me talk about their big holiday plans–plans that involve boatloads of relatives, extravagant gifts, preparing huge meals for the extended family and their large circles of friends, planning plane or road trips to see beloved family and friends. I admit I envy these people, and really have a hard time dealing with their holiday chatter. It makes me feel so cheated and drives home how unfair life can be. Holiday commercials are even worse, and their images of the idealized, big extended, functional families sitting around a huge table groaning with food while the kids happily open gifts under a 12 foot tree feels like a kick in the teeth. It feels like the universe, or God or whatever, is taunting me:
“This is what everyone else has and you do not. You don’t deserve what they have. Nyah, nyah! Suck it up, loser.”
That’s really what it feels like. And it’s so, so hard. It makes me want to crawl into a large cardboard box and die.

I have a roommate, but she will be with her own family on Thanksgiving, and frankly, she isn’t someone I want to spend much time with. So it looks very likely I will be alone on Thanksgiving. Should I cook a small turkey just for me? I might–just to go through the motions of doing something special, and because I enjoy cooking and baking. I thought of going to the Catholic church I’ve been attending lately for their free Thanksgiving dinner–but that just seems so desperate and pathetic. I can’t help but associate people who go alone to such events as being the rejects of society, those without families or friends to be with. Well, that’s exactly what I am though, isn’t it? What makes me think I’m better than those people? Still, I don’t know if I can bring myself to go.

Christmas will be even worse. I think I’ll just skip Christmas this year. I’ve said that every year though since my kids became adults, and I haven’t skipped it yet. I may put up a small pre-lit tabletop tree from the dollar store. I have an antique mirror I can put behind it to make it appear brighter and bigger. But I don’t know. For me, giving gifts is far more fun than receiving, and Christmas is no fun if you’re too poor to give anything. I can make some of my glass and mirror suncatchers and give those (they were well received last year) or bake cookies and wrap them in attractive packages and inexpensive colorful tins.

Or maybe this can be the year I decide to stop feeling sorry for myself and give someone who is even worse off than me a few hours of joy. I could volunteer at the church, or the soup pantry, or even invite a homeless person or someone with no one to be with out to dinner for Christmas. Even a total stranger! At least I have a home, and a little bit of money; many people don’t even have that. In a week or so I’ll be receiving a several thousand dollar settlement from my daughter’s car accident back in October; I think I should use a little of that money to try to bring some joy into someone’s life who doesn’t have any at all. But will I do it?

snoopycharliebrown

The holidays sure are a challenge, and every year I dread them and wish I could just hibernate until spring, but maybe this will be the year I can give to someone else what I don’t have much of myself.