Holidays can be heavy: For all the hype about bright lights, festive carols and warm times with loved ones, the celebrations can loom ominously for those who find themselves alone, at odds with family or in a personal struggle at year's end.
A few keystrokes into Google hint at what untold thousands worry over during the season. Type "how to survive the holidays" into the search bar and the service suggests additional words to add such as "alone," "with family" and "in retail" — all based on others' searches of the same phrase.
Add to that the idea that nearly 70% of Americans find the holidays stressful, a recent survey suggests, and it's no wonder many are just looking to make it to January.
Here are tips on "how to survive the holidays" based on the heavily searched queries around the phrase.
How to survive the holidays alone
From Hallmark Christmas movie to tunes like "I'll Be Home for Christmas," holiday culture exalts time with loved ones. And if being alone makes you feel lonely, you might not feel at home with the season's prescribed holiday cheer. That's OK. "Acknowledging your emotions gives you the opportunity to let them go," Vivian Sierra, a Clayton, Missouri-based therapist, told Prevention magazine.
There is no perfect Christmas, alone or not, and ditching unrealistic expectations can ease negative thinking, Lifehacker notes.
If you know friends and family who are celebrating, consider asking them about their plans in advance. As psychologist Guy Winch writes for Psychology Today, "studies clearly show that loneliness makes us underestimate the extent to which those around us care about us," and an invite may just arise.
How to survive the holidays with family
There's no place like home for the holidays, especially amid family tensions. Before immersing yourself back into family dynamics, set clear boundaries and expectations about when you'll be joining, as Alexcis Spencer Lopez, a Tucson, Arizona-based wellness coach, said at CNN. Set clear boundaries on when you'll be there — or how long they're welcome— and look at renting a car or lodging, she said. It's a small price to pay for autonomy.
If tensions flare, don't fight fire with fire and worsen them, as Andrea Brandt, a therapist in Santa Monica, California, said at Psychology Today. Instead, escape to an empty room, take a walk around the block or — if you're in town for a few days — or time with a friend. If needed, tap a close sibling or other relative for commiseration and support. Once you've taken a few deep breaths, circle back with a family member one-on-one.
And if everyone in the family needs a break, consider stepping out together for a movie. It requires minimal interaction, and many theaters are open on Christmas Day.
How to survive the holidays with an eating disorder
Holidays can feel synonymous with food, making them particularly difficult for family members who suffer with eating disorders. If that's you, the National Eating Disorders Association recommends not bottling up your battle inside. Consider a support pal to process your emotions with before holiday meals, and ask them to be responsive via text if needed.
If you're up for it, the association recommends "challenging yourself, baby-step style" by supplying food you feel comfortable around, or by trying a portion of food you love but typically avoid. Setting up doable goals can keep you engaged around loved ones instead of seeking isolation over the holidays, the organization says.
If you're hosting a loved one with a disorder, shift the holiday's focus from food to time spent together. Games, gifts, carols and decorating are all good activities, says Center For Change, a treatment center in Orem, Utah. Avoid all talk about diets and weight, which can be triggering, and take your loved one aside to ask how she's doing (privately).
And for support before or after a holiday, the National Eating Disorders Association offers a toll-free, confidential helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
How to survive the holidays in retail
If you work in retail and your'e reading this, stay strong: Only 12 days left until Christmas. The retail onslaught stretching to Christmas from Black Friday (and sometimes earlier) can leave store employees exhausted, achey and jaded about humanity. The antidote? Intentional, on-the-job self care.
As chaotic as stores get during the holidays, find a spot that can become your safe haven: a stock room, a break room, a bathroom, et al., and make it a point to escape when able for a few deep, measured breaths, retail veterans told Monster.com.
Retail consultant Bob Phibbs advises investing in comfortable, well-fitting shoes to provide crucial support as you dart between customers. Bring your own lunch during the holidays, too, he says — the mall's food court will be packed and stress inducing. Staying hydrated is crucial to warding off headaches and general blahness, so keep a water bottle nearby if possible.