When You Just Don’t Feel Jolly

Sad woman at the holidays. Many people struggle to feel festive in December.
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. Everyone feels happy and warm and joyful, right? Well, maybe not everyone. For a variety of reasons, many people struggle to feel festive in December. Common causes of downheartedness include:

  • Missing a loved one who has passed away
  • Struggling with a recent divorce
  • Worrying over a straying child
  • Agonizing over a sick friend or family member
  • Suffering from loneliness
  • Fretting about finances
  • Battling an illness
  • Stressing about employment or unemployment

In addition, many suffer a general malaise from “Facebook Syndrome,” where we see everyone else having a fun, wonderful, and perfectly planned holiday while we are overwhelmed and behind.

The bottom line is, sometimes we just don’t feel jolly. So what can we do?

Don’t Feel Pressured to Pretend

If someone asks, “How are you?” you don’t have to say, “Good.” Find a phrase that summarizes how you are honestly feeling, without making the other person regret having asked. For example, you might say, “I’ve been going through a lot lately, but I’m trying to focus on the good things and stay positive.” Feigned cheerfulness can actually lead to deeper depression as we subtly communicate that our feelings are somehow wrong and should be hidden.

Treat Yourself to a Visceral Pleasure

Since exhaustion and sadness are real, we need to intentionally counteract them with positive, tactile stimuli. How we choose to do this will vary widely, as we all enjoy different things. Some may seek physical release through exercise or a brisk walk, while others prefer to stretch out in a bubble bath. Maybe you enjoy an indulgent treat, or granting yourself an hour to sit in front of the tree and listen to music that touches your soul. When you are going through tough times, bring some creature comforts along for the journey.

Do For Others

When life throws us a curveball, it is hard to stop thinking about our upsetting circumstances. Dire situations are often omnipresent, and we can’t get a mental break from all that is worrisome. One of the best ways to get out of your head is to serve someone else. Volunteer at a shelter, pray for someone, be a listening ear, shop for gifts, write a note, deliver a meal… do whatever you can to get your mind off of yourself and onto someone else. Doing for others is one of the best ways to step away from your struggles and refresh your stressed-out mind.

Turn Off Social Media

Nothing makes us feel as badly as comparing our inside/private lives to other peoples’ outside/public lives. We know intellectually that most people post only their best moments, and yet we somehow feel like our lives should be similarly terrific all the time. If you are having a challenging holiday season, it might be wise to just get off of social media all together. It is lovely that other people are enjoying their holiday season, but doesn’t mean you have to torture yourself.

Allow Yourself to Laugh

Last January I decided to follow in the footsteps of some of my fellow bloggers and adopt a theme word for the year. The word I chose was, “laugh,” and throughout the year I have been actively pursuing laughter. Laughing is actually good for us, increasing blood flow, aiding sleep, and improving immunity. It can also be helpful for relieving tension and restoring perspective.

If you are having a tough holiday season, why not distract yourself with something that makes you laugh? I’ll get you started with a few things that have made me laugh this year:

Cats and Cucumbers




Downton Abbey Moment


“Brexit is a terrible name, sounds like cereal you eat when you are constipated.”

Tiff Stevenson


Bob left work one Friday evening.

But it was payday, so instead of going home, he stayed out the entire weekend partying with his mates and spending his entire wages.

When he finally appeared at home on Sunday night, he was confronted by his angry wife and was barraged for nearly two hours with a tirade befitting his actions. Finally his wife stopped the nagging and said to him, “How would you like it if you didn’t see me for two or three days?”

He replied, “That would be fine with me.”

Monday went by and he didn’t see his wife.

Tuesday and Wednesday came and went with the same results.

But on Thursday, the swelling went down just enough where he could see her a little out of the corner of his left eye.

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The way we experience the holiday season will differ from year to year, and some years will be smoother than others. Do what you can to make the most of where you are, and remember that next year may have wonderful things in store.

Have you struggled to feel festive? What tips do you have for finding peace in the midst of chaos?

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