Holidays for Adults with Unhappy Holiday Memories

hot air balloons at sunset

Self-Care to Reduce Holiday Stress

Yesterday I went to physical therapy. Yes, physical therapy. AGAIN.

There were beautiful huge pumpkins decorating the waiting room. One on each side of the door. Today is a day in the last week of September.

Halloween is at the end of next month!

The holidays are coming! Thanksgiving movies are being advertised on television. Christmas music will soon be playing everywhere. Homes, schools, and offices are decorating.

Beautiful mouthwatering candy and cookies are tempting the most patient dieter. “Tis the season to be jolly”. Or is it?

This brings up memories. Happy memories or unhappy ones. Everyone experiences holiday stress. Yet people with unhappy childhoods experience sometimes massive holiday stress.

This blog is for you. I’m writing for each and every one of you whose childhood memories are unhappy ones.

I wish to discuss a myth. This fable suggests that all you need to do is let go. Let go of bad memories. Just decide to forget about it.

That’s not the case. People say, “Just go laugh and play; you’ll feel better.

Or “Enjoy the moment.”

“Forget the past.”

These false ideas make your holidays more difficult. Stressful.

People expect child abuse to be over when you grow up. You are expected to pick up with grit and a smile. Then carry on from the most stressful memories.

You were invisible before, but now you don’t exist. People expect you to disappear into the mainstream of society and have no problems with life at all.

People assume you will just deal with it all the time, but the pressure on you is worse around the holidays. All around you are expressions of happiness and joy.

Movies, music, stores, and other people are expressing happy feelings. You place expectations on yourself and create more holiday stress. You tell yourself; “be jolly.

Happiness is an expectation and a pressure on you. Instead, you feel like Scrooge. More stress.

When you laugh and play, you feel your innermost feelings. For a person with a happy fulfilling personal history, this is wonderful. You’ll remember Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and other family holidays past with fond and pleasant memories.

Sure, you have had problems in your life; but the overall picture of your personal history is mellow. You’ll remember smells, sounds, and people with warmth, joy, and feelings of anticipation.

If you grew up in a dysfunctional household, holidays were more likely to be chaotic. You lived holiday stress.

All days were chaotic, but the holidays were worse.

Many people have memories of dad or mom drunk and violent or weepy or sloppy sentimental. There are memories of dire poverty with no food or heat or furniture. Your parents might have traded your Christmas presents for drugs. Or you were beaten senseless by your drunken parent or molested by that weird Uncle So and So.

Christmas and other holidays bring up feelings and memories from the most painful events of your life.

Here are some suggestions to help you take care of yourself.

  • Tell yourself your truths.

What truths? You might ask. Your truths are those thoughts and feelings you have in the privacy of your own mind. Your truth is what happened to you in your lifetime.

Your truth consists of your beliefs, needs, wants, and ideas. You probably don’t voice them. You might not even allow yourself to acknowledge them. However, you do hear them.

If you allow yourself to know your truths, you will be able to make a holiday plan that fits your needs. You can make good decisions based on who you are, what you have been through and what exactly you need from yourself.

  • Allow yourself to feel how you feel.

Tell yourself that you are normal to feel the way you feel. Acknowledge that you have a right to feel exactly as you feel about these holidays. Remind yourself that anyone with your specific history would feel exactly as you do.

  • Try to find ways to give your approval to yourself.

Make yourself right for who you are instead of wrong. If it is normal for you to feel painful feelings during the holidays, you don’t have to pretend to be jolly. If you don’t have to pretend to be jolly, you can find healthy ways to comfort yourself.

  • Ask yourself what kind of Holiday you would like.

As an adult, you can do for yourself what you could not do in childhood. You have a wide range of options to choose from.

  • You can give yourself a traditional holiday.
  • You can ignore the holidays altogether.
  • You can spend your holidays in service to others.
  • You could spend your holiday with a church of your choice.
  • There is no correct way of having holidays.
  • You can look at all the different aspects of each celebration; then pick and choose the activities that suit you.
  • The point here is to listen to yourself.
  • Take care of yourself based on your truth, your feelings and what you want.

Decide to parent yourself. Comfort yourself with what you need.

Keep yourself safe from harm. Be kind to yourself. This may be the most difficult step in self-care.

  • Whenever you make any change in your behavior, you will run into resistance.

Resistance is sneaky. Sometimes it’s just a sense of irritation. Other times, it’s a nightmare. I often feel sick when getting ready to do something difficult. Resistance is within yourself and also from other people. This too is normal.

Accept that you will fight yourself when taking care of you. And, then proceed to do just that. Fight yourself to take care of you.

  • Taking care of yourself is a long learning process.

All that is required is that you make an attempt. Each effort, each trial for self-care is progress. Your attempts will help you relieve your holiday stress. You can create new memories for yourself. Memories that suit you and meet your needs.

Best wishes to you. Stay safe!

Do you have thoughts about how you can reduce your upcoming holiday stress?

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