It’s that time of year again, the magical, cozy start of winter. The best season of the year. Am I right?!
We just got through mid-term elections, sitting on pins and needles, and now we’re looking at the calendar like, “How the hell is it Thanksgiving already?!” You may have already started getting the questions from friends, “What are you doing for the holidays?” “You want to hang out?” “We should get together!” "Let's do friends-giving!"
Or an SMS from your sister who was counting on you to have her back when she stands up to Uncle Larry's homophobia at the dinner table that reads...
[insert crying emoji, and a thick layer of sticky, peanut-buttery guilt]
The pressure is real. The stress is real. The sticker shock and dread as you refresh your flight itinerary page hoping for no cancellations is real!
So let’s look at some practical ways to survive the holidays without losing your shit and to start your new year off on the right foot, which ever foot or hand or knee that is.
Holiday Survival Tip #1: Set realistic expectations for yourself (a.k.a. set boundaries)!
There are only 24hrs in a day, at least 8 of which you need to give your body and mind some sleep! There will be things that you want to participate in or expectations from others that you don’t want to let down. Expectations are going to happen. Letting someone down is going to happen. Let’s just get that out in the open. You’re not going to be able to meet ALL of everyone’s expectations. You’re not gong to be able to meet ALL of your own expectations. You’re just not.
Can you take that in?
As you’re getting invitations and thinking about your own invitations, what feels doable? For some that might be one event a week. For others that might be one event/hangout a day. And that’s okay! We’re all different and have different needs and capacities for hangout time. Saying “No” to an invitation when you’ve already filled your friend-time-spot for the day is a great way to honor yourself and your own needs. Yes, you might experience some serious FOMO while scrolling social media, but that’s okay. You can do this. Rest your body. Rest your mind. Allow some room to keep your body strong to not just survive, but thrive through this season of travel, illness, and time spent with others.
Holiday Survival Tip #2: Define your priorities for the next 2 months and make a plan!
When it comes down to decision-making, it helps to know what your priorities are. What do you value most during these last 2 months of the year? Time with family? Time resting? Time riding your bike? Time serving the community? What’s most important for this time? Deciding this ahead of time helps you make decisions and set boundaries when invitations come.
For queer and trans folks, sometimes our priorities are physical and emotional safety. Some of us have family that live in places that are not safe. Sure, you’ll make your momma happy coming home for the holidays, but at what expense? Are there any things you need to do to increase your safety for the holidays? Before traveling, do you need to make a plan for leaving if things get hostile or unsafe? Who are the people in your life that support you? Who are the people you need to reach out to when things get hard? Make a plan for yourself before you get into those situations. Communicate to your support network to give them a heads up you might be calling or might need an emergency ride to the airport. If your family is religious, what do you need to do to be able to show up for yourself and survive the visit when the pressure is on for you to go to Church or Synagogue or Mosque? Is there someone safe you can sit with? Do you need to drive or ride separately to the service so that you can leave when you need to? Do you need to schedule to call someone after the service to cry together or just be reminded that you’re not alone? Because you’re not. You’re not alone, even when you’re sitting there in a room full of hostile people and messages from the stage that are hateful, demoralizing, and painful. Who are those people you can call or visit that get it, that know what it’s like to sit through those moments.
And don't forget to make time for chosen family! LGBTQ+ folks sometimes don't have the privilege of having affirming and supportive family. So we make our own families and support networks. One of the best ways to beat the alone-ness of the holidays is to make plans to spend time with our chosen family. Our chosen family knows what it's like to be queer and trans. We don't have to explain ourselves. We don't have to educate. They just know. It is so important to spend time with your community and chosen family during the holidays, to feel that relief of being with others who understand. Find ways to prioritize this during the holidays.
Holiday Survival Tip #3: Let people know what to expect. Communication helps the world go round.
For some it’s natural to communicate directly your needs and boundaries. For many, this is so uncomfortable and hard stuff! I get that! However, clear communication with those around us helps them as well as us. It helps them know what to expect. It makes saying, “No,” a little bit easier when needed. But think about it. Would you rather have that uncomfortable conversation on the phone before you arrive home or would you rather have it when you’re face to face at your family’s house with everyone staring at you in expectation? Make a plan before hand. Tell your family what to expect from you. And be consistent. It helps your family prepare their own expectations for your visit and might just decrease the pressure enough to make holding those boundaries ever so much easier.
Holiday Survival Tip #4: Volunteer locally and practice gratitude.
During the holidays, there are so many wonderful local opportunities to show up for others in your community. Caring for others is such a wonderful experience (you heard it here straight from your therapist!). As a therapist, I love my work! Getting to walk alongside others is an incredible honor and joy of mine. It not only helps and supports others in their journey (I love being helpful, not gonna lie), but it helps me as well. Working with people helps me get perspective. People teach me something new every day. Working with folks reminds me of the incredible resilience, strength, and goodness in humxnity, and that’s no small thing! Reading the news, it’s easy to feel discouraged or hopeless about the state of humxnity. But working with others is an incredible opportunity to see the other side of humxnity.
Check out your local community’s social media feeds for opportunities to serve others and to be side by side with others who give a f-ck. Participate at a local food bank. Use your car or bike to deliver a warm meal to someone who can’t cook for themselves or afford food deliveries. Throw a few extra cans of food into your cart and drop it off at a food bank. Participate in an online gift registry donation program, to send some gifts to folks who may not get affirming gifts this year (e.g. gender-affirming clothes, wedding gifts for an upcoming queer wedding) or any gifts at all.
Practice gratitude. Practice gratitude. Practice gratitude. Gratitude shifts something inside of us when we practice it. Take some time to practice gratitude. You can sit and journal. You can sit and do a gratitude meditation. You can write a card to your loved ones, neighbors, and friends letting them know you’re grateful they’re in your life. Gratitude shifts us on the inside and shifts the world around us. It’s incredibly simple, but incredibly powerful. Don’t take my word for it! Give it a try.
Holiday Survival Tip #5: Give yourself a break!
At the end of the day, you will have moments when you lose your shit. There will be days you overbook yourself. There will be moments when you’re hangry because you were traveling and didn’t have access to healthy food or food at all. There will be moments when you can’t see any hope for the future. You’ll have bad moments. You’re humxn! We all have these moments. If you can, extend some compassion and understanding toward yourself. Self-compassion is another practice that has the potential to shift something inside of yourself as well as shift the world around you.
Can you extend some grace, some empathy, some understanding toward yourself? Start now before the shit hits the fan! You can always practice self-compassion even when things are going well. Need some inspiration? Check out Insight Timer or YouTube for some great guided mindfulness and self-compassion exercises. Sign up for a yoga class that practices self-compassion.
Holiday Survival Tip #6: Reach out for support when you need it.
The holidays are hard! They’re really stressful! But they’re also incredible opportunities to love yourself and to love the people around you. I hope these tips and tricks help.
But remember, sometimes we have seasons that are really hard, seasons that kick us down and are unrelenting. As TWLOHA says, “It’s okay to not be okay.” We all have these challenging seasons in our lives. It’s normal. It’s human. You don’t have to do it alone. In these times, reach out to your support people in your life when you need that extra boost. If you’ve been thinking about it but putting it off for a while, send us a message to start the conversation to see if therapy is right for you, you and your partner, or for your teen. There’s no better time to start therapy than today. You do not have to do this alone. We’re here to help, and we look forward to hearing from you!
Wish you joy and compassion and hope for these holidays.
Lindsay and Sharon