The holiday season is a special one, filled with traditions and family time. Your first holiday after divorce, however, is not so merry—most times it feels like the exact opposite. This time of year is undoubtedly tough, adding even more stress to what is supposed to be a joyous time.
Luckily, with a little preparation, honesty, and help from these 6 tips, you can bring the joy back to your holiday season.
1. Be Honest About What You Need
You may likely fall into one of two categories—either you want to be surrounded by those you love or you want to be alone. Be honest about which side you fall on; perhaps it’s a little of both: you want to spend time with family, but need more space for you-time than usual.
It’s hard to turn down event invites, but if it doesn’t feel right, stay true to you and respectfully decline. You could always stop by the day before or after with a bottle of wine to wish the host happy holidays on your time.
On the other hand, if you’re worried about being alone, reach out to friends and family rather than hoping they’ll reach out to you. There’s plenty going on this time of year, depending on where you live, from holiday shows like the Nutcracker to ice skating. As soon as you tell people you’ll be all alone, invitations will start flying in.
If you want to celebrate alone, volunteer at a local food bank or attend a church service. There are many ways to get into the holiday spirit without being with friends or family.
2. Bring Some Om to your Home
Yoga is one of the best stress-busting activities, and the holidays are a perfect time to start practicing. All it takes is a DVD (or a Youtube video) and you’re ready to get started. If you want to get out of the house, remember that most gyms offer yoga classes as part of your membership, making it easy to hop in on a class.
The best part: yoga was number one indoor hobby of 2016, so you’re likely to meet new people through your practice, helping you build a positive community after divorce.
3. Give Gifts of Time and Attention
After a divorce, you’ve likely moved into a different space and maybe even have a smaller budget. It’s important to shift your holiday focus away from “material goods” toward “thankfulness,” which is the true reason for the holiday.
Spend more time with your family, offer to host a gathering or babysit for a friend. Most importantly, give the gift of time and attention to yourself. Take a nap, read a good book by the fire, or do something to spoil yourself—after a long year, you deserve it.
4. Simplify Your Traditions
One of the best ways to de-stress during the holidays is to let go of some old holiday traditions and do less. Put up fewer decorations, don’t go to as many parties, and see how your time opens up. You can still honor old traditions, but make them your own. If your children are upset that things are different than they were before, bring them in on it. Have them share their ideas, and make it everyone’s new tradition.
5. Make Visitation Plans Early
Save yourself the tension and work out where the kids will spend Christmas a few weeks in advance. There’s nothing more stressful than a last minute fight about logistics and holiday child visitation. If the kids are staying with you, then that’s great; if not, you’ve got the time to make an alternative plan for yourself. Maybe you could head somewhere you’ve always wanted to go on Christmas, like a tropical destination or to see your best friend on the other side of the country.
6. Focus on Others
After a divorce, it can seem like your unhappiness is the only thing in your life. Giving back by volunteering is a great way to remind yourself that there are others suffering as well. It may bring you comfort to know that you can help them, and in a way, they’re helping you too.
Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or adopt a less-fortunate family for Christmas. Brightening someone else’s day is a great way to feel good about yourself again, and can help alleviate the anxiety you’re feeling this holiday season.