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How to Make Your Holidays Not Suck

It’s that time of year again.Christmas dog

The Holidays.

For many people, the end of the year festivities are a time of joy and warmth, a time for nostalgia, and a time to celebrate with the loved ones in our lives.

But what time is it for others?

Those troubled by ugly memories of holidays past rather than ones filled with light and love.

Those who with the dreaded family get-togethers that you really can’t get out of but desperately want to.

And those who are alone for the holidays and don’t want to be.

How do we make this time not suck?

Here are some ideas:

1. Remember that this, too, shall pass.

Yes, I’ve used this phrase before. And I shall use it again and again and again.

Because no truer words have ever been spoken.

Even though The Holidays now start as soon as the last candy is nabbed from a neighbor on Halloween and last for about two full months, they’re going to pass.

Just like they do every year.

You’ll get through this year, too.

2. Don’t blow your dread out of proportion.

“I can’t stand the holidays!”

“Not another horrible dinner with my dad and his wife and her four bratty kids – I’ll never make it!”

“I’m the only one I know who doesn’t have somewhere to go and people to be with during the holidays.”

Your holidays aren’t fun, it’s true.

But do you make them suck even more by dwelling on your negative thoughts about them?

Try this instead: When you find yourself thinking your old thoughts that create dread in the very core of your being, just notice them and let them float away as though they are on a cloud in a breeze.

What usually happens is we go on and on and on in our minds about a thought, like this:

“Not another horrible dinner with my dad and his wife and her four bratty kids – I’ll never make it! All of that noise and shouting with those kids running at full tilt in the living room. And I never get any time with my dad since he has to do whatever Sheila says. I hate the way she orders him around . . . ”

Notice how the person having this thought is adding on to it and whipping it up into a full-scale catastrophe.

Just noticing a thought and letting it float away would look something more like this:

“Not another horrible dinner with my dad and his wife and her four bratty kids – I’ll never make it! Oh, there’s that same thought I have all the time – let me just put that on a cloud in my mind and let it float away.”

That’s it. No additional drama. No fuss. Just, “Oh, there’s that thought again.”

This technique helps you gain a little distance from your thinking so that it doesn’t become you. It’s just a thought you’re having.

3. Don’t try not to think about it.

Did I ever tell you about the white bear?

Social psychologist Daniel Wegner conducted a unique study back in the 1980s where he asked one group of participants to say aloud whatever came to their minds. “But whatever you do,” he said, “do not think of a white bear. If you do think of a white bear, ring this bell.”

What do you think happened?

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

The subjects had a hard time not thinking of a white bear.

Another group of subjects were told to verbalize their thoughts and that it was okay if they thought about a white bear. They were also asked to ring the bell if they thought of a white bear.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

The second group thought of white bears, but not nearly as much as the first group who were desperately trying not to think of white bears.

The moral of this story?

The more you try not to think of something, the more you will.

So let those thoughts of how much you hate the holidays come.

And then let them go.

4. Do something different.

If you can’t stand the holidays, try something different this year.

Instead of looking at the Christmas lights with loathing, look at them as just pretty lights. Notice the colors and the creativity in the displays.

Go to the mall or shopping center and just sit and people-watch. Do you notice yourself in any of those stressed faces? Do something different!

Obviously, if you can get out of the dreaded family gathering this year, do it. There’s no sense in making yourself (and possibly everyone else) miserable if you don’t really want to be there.

If you can’t get out of it, do something different when you’re at the gathering.

Sit with different people. Ask your dad directly if he can sit with you for awhile. Engage the noisy kids in a game that you and they all enjoy. Tell the drunk uncle you really don’t want to talk with him when he’s drunk and walk away.

If you’re alone for the holidays and don’t want to be, have a “Dinner for Strays” at your house. Gather other people you know who don’t have a place to go and create your own holiday tradition.

If you don’t know anyone, now is the time to join a church, group, or class so you can start to meet people.

The point is to take some action in a different direction.

You might be stuck in a holiday rut that’s actually a little easier to get out of than you think!


Want more ideas how to bounce back from tough times? Download my FREE e-book, Bounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs.


How to Make Your Holidays Not Suck

Bobbi Emel, MFT

Psychotherapist Bobbi Emel specializes in helping people face life’s significant challenges and regain their resiliency. In addition to seeing clients in her private practice, Bobbi is a well-regarded speaker and writer. Check out her other writing at The Bounce Blog.

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APA Reference
Emel, B. (2013). How to Make Your Holidays Not Suck. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2019, from


Last updated: 2 Dec 2013
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