by Andrea M. Darcy
Got the holiday hump and not even at Christmas Day yet? Just what is it about the holidays that leaves so many of us emotionally volatile and exhausted?
The truth about the holiday hump
Sure, there are the late nights, demanding social calendar, and the overspending. But are they really the reason that every year you are inevitably annoyed at a colleague after the staff party, and wanting to disown your children by Boxing Day?
Ever notice that in Christmas movies, the elves seem stressed and grumpy, and it’s Santa who sits around happy, delegating everything? One of the hidden reasons that the holidays leave so many of us far from jolly is hidden in this scenario.
Are you being an elf or a Santa?
We somehow, amongst the tinsel and the turkey, forget all about boundaries and self-care. We become more like an elf – obsessively fulfilling others’ needs and wants to our own detriment– and less like a Santa.
C might be for Christmas, but it is also, coincidentally, the first letter in codependency. Which sees us working to please others to attain a sense of self-worth and entirely forgetting our own needs. When we over give and others aren’t grateful, we are left full of resentment, and with the holiday hump. But we are the one who who chose to do too much!
7 Steps to getting out of the holiday hump
So how exactly does one leave behind the elf-like victim mode and go into ‘master-of-the-sleigh’ mode?
1. Don’t let good intentions blind you from your assumptions.
Christmas codependency can start with good intentions. We want to create a perfect season for our loved ones. But often that starts with assuming we know others want.
Instead of assuming everyone wants the holidays to look a certain way, ask them what would make them happy. It might be require less effort than you are making.
2. Own up to your own choices.
Being a victim is exhausting. It’s impossible to feel good if we are sitting there feeling sorry for ourselves.
Take a moment to look at where you might be blaming others for your own choices. If you hate having your parents over but went ahead and invited them, is it really your partner’ fault because she likes seeing them?
Taking responsibility isn’t blaming yourself, it’s taking back your power to make different choices. It can feel oddly energising… try it for yourself and see.
3. Also take responsibility for your emotions.
If you feel grumpy, annoyed, or sad, or feel unliked by everyone, well, nobody can make you feel anything. As an adult you are the one in charge of your feelings.
Use therapy tools to work through your emotions instead of projecting them onto others. Try some fast journalling where you rip up the pages afterwards. Or if you find yourself with some time totally alone set a timer for three minutes and try a ‘negativity dump‘. Scream out all the things you wish you could say but wouldn’t dare, pushing yourself to fill up the three minutes.
4. Reframe expectations to escape the holiday hump.
If your visions of a white Christmas singing songs with your family by the fire has dwindled into a rainy time on the coast? With only your partner and dog because the rest of your family is overseas this year? You are essentially setting yourself up to feel hard done by.
What would happen if you focussed on what you realistically could make happen? For example, the singing part has potential. It’s within your power to make plans to go to a choir performance, or have friends around for a singalong. Lower expectations and find a way to meet your own needs instead of feeling disappointed when things don’t turn out how you envisioned.
5. When in doubt, delegate.
Yes, maybe you do make the best Turkey, or have the nicest house. But that does not mean you have to always do everything and be the host every year. Sometimes the fastest way to a less stressful Xmas is to recognise it doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t need to be us doing everything. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
If you find it hard, then that just means you have control issues, and really need to do more of it. See the festive season as a time to practice.
(For more great tips on what y0u need to navigate holiday stress, see our article the zen of managing holiday stress and our advice for how to stay calm at christmas. )
6. Give yourself the gift of boundaries.
It doesn’t make you a bad person to decide you aren’t going to Church this year, or won’t be wearing a Christmas sweater. It makes you someone who has boundaries and who is going to feel far less of the holiday hump!
Just share your decision calmly and with confidence, in a statement with no explanation (this just sets you up to be challenged and makes you look uncertain). Then change the subject and move on.
7. Stick to one time zone.
The fastest way to have the holiday hump? Thinking of the past (what Christmas was better, how someone let you down) or the future (what a better Christmas would look like, what you’ll do when you are richer).
Make things easier on yourself and stick to the present moment. Let whatever is actually in front of you be enough. If that’s hard, try a mini mindfulness break.
Can’t get over the holiday hump? Our talk therapists in London can help you with low moods and family issues. We offer in-person therapy in central London or online therapy is also available.
Pictures by Casey Fleser, Dave, Kyle Taylor, Rodrigo Baptiste, Kamyar Adl