Faith WoodNot feeling it this season? Started getting stressed as soon as you saw the Christmas decorations go up the day after Halloween?

I’m guessing that it’s not because you’re famous for being able to give the Grinch a run for his money. You get by most of the time without people thinking your heart is two sizes too small.

It’s just that once we all get into the “Happy Holiday!” swing of things, people are going to start expecting that you be, well … happy. And at times, that seems like a bigger challenge than you can face.

It happens to a lot of us. We ought not to feel bad about not feeling happy, merry, jolly or anything else usually associated with the holidays.

Sometimes it’s easy during the holidays to assume that everyone else’s December is 100 percent merry and bright. But the reality is that many people just don’t feel the magic. It might be that this is the first holiday without a loved one or the first holiday after a breakup or divorce. Or you thought you’d have a baby by now or be married – or have more money.

You get the idea.

The very thing that makes the holidays so meaningful for many of us can be exactly what brings up painful memories and disappointments.

It really is okay to feel pensive during the holidays rather than chipper (just take time to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and you’ll see that on display).

But there’s hope. You can survive all the madness with your dignity intact.

It’s what I hope for all of you: To claim a simpler version of the holiday spirit. To be grateful to those who are in your corner and want only the very best for you.

If you meet someone who seems like a Scrooge, remember they may be struggling with a challenging anniversary you don’t know about.

If I know the painful circumstances a friend is going through, I at least acknowledge that I remember. No platitudes or clichés, just letting them know that I see them and remember this might be a hard season.

Click here to downloadIf you’re struggling with the ease and flow of the holiday season, know that you’re not alone. As the big day approaches, many of us scramble with all the responsibility and the desire to get things done. The perfect gift, the perfect wrapping, the cookies, sending out cards, attending school plays, paying the bills … the list goes on and on.

With all this perceived responsibility, it’s easy to fall victim to the pressures and start feeling a boatload of anxiety about Christmas.

It is time to recognize and appreciate that there are no perfect holidays. Accept your limitations and honour those activities that make you feel good when you do them. It’s okay to create your own holiday memories with your family and friends – and they don’t need to involve a nervous breakdown.

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

Maybe not, but do yourself a favour and avoid hiding indoors. Get out into the sunshine, take a walk in the snow. Phone a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Or even just take yourself to the movies.

Find solace in small activities and start building new memories to cherish.

When I get time alone, I cherish the opportunity to grab a blanket, sit by the fire and get lost in a great story. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax; all you need is a book.”

Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.  For interview requests, click here.

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