It’s that time of year when everyone and their mother, and your mother for that matter, are ratcheting things up a level. Stress abounds for everyone, but for singles, there is the added stress of the family-centric nature of this time of year. It seems like everything, from the music to the Lexus commercial to your well-meaning friends and family, seems to suggest that being romantically untethered this time of year is worse than sitting on a fire ant mound. And yet there are festivities to attend, travel plans to make, and an endless list of tasks that you alone are responsible for. You are still expected to do the stuff even if it feels like the stuff wasn’t made with you in mind. 

It’s easy to feel like you’re missing out. You know that no one is going to buy you a Lexus, as the commercial implies happens to actual normal humans, or when you think about not having anyone to kiss on New Year’s Eve for the eleventh year in a row. Everyone seems happy and bubbly and festive even though it gets dark at 2 p.m. and the temperature is well into its steady decline. Maybe you’ve felt this dissonance as well and it’s made you feel like there’s something wrong with you. 

But perhaps you haven’t had time to think about it, after all there are holiday parties to attend and presents to purchase solely with your income. Well, I’m here to give you permission to think about it. Let’s take a beat together and walk through some ways to own this holiday season. 

Plan ahead or Journal

I’m all about helping you dig deep and explore what’s going on in that head and heart of yours so you can prioritize more honestly. This time of year is exceptionally noisy, so it can be easy to get caught up in all the “should’s.” I should have decorated. My apartment should be cleaner. I should be able to afford the perfect gift for every one. I should go to this party even though I don’t want to. I should say yes to this volunteer opportunity even though that’s my only time to decompress. Journaling and planning ahead are great ways to weed through the tangle of “should’s” so that we don’t end up burnt out, or even physically ill. If we don’t take the time in advance to listen to what our bodies, hearts, and spirits are communicating, we could end up in some sticky situations that are not beneficial for anyone. Also, if we aren’t honest about our motivations and expectations, we are not setting ourselves up for success. 

For lots of singles, this time of year is filled with unmet longings, anxiety, stress, and loneliness. It’s important for us to acknowledge those feelings and look into where they come from. In all of this exploration, approach yourself with curiosity and compassion, not judgement. Personally, it’s tempting to get swept up in all of the noise so that I don’t have to feel my feelings, even though I know this never leads me good places. Funnily enough the feelings don’t just go away if you pretend they aren’t there. Rude. Realistically, I only end up working through these feelings when I have shoved too many down for too long and then I have a disproportionate response to an innocuous social obligation. But I am learning to check in with myself more regularly, and my therapist has given me some great tools to do so. 

If you’re interested in doing this sort of thing but don’t know where to start, download this guide that will help. 

Decide what you’re going to let go of

I cannot do everything. You cannot do everything. And yet, do you ever find yourself thinking you should be able to? Here’s a fun factoid for us to store away… no matter how put together a person’s apartment or life seems to be, odds are there’s that one closet or room where they’ve shoved all that random stuff they haven’t taken care of. That closet might be metaphorical, but I promise it’s there. It’s true for us singles and it’s true for people who have a partner to whom they can delegate tasks. Something has to give. What are some things you’re going to let fall through the cracks right now? Laundry? Vacuuming? Your book club meeting this month? Going to all eighty-seven things your church has planned? Make like Elsa and let it go. Your laundry will always be there, and the church will not cease to exist if you miss a couple of things.  

Schedule a few friend dates

With all the kerfuffle of the season, it can be easy to keep things superficial, even with people you care about deeply. This flurry of activity can make it an exceptionally lonely time to be single. Chances are you aren’t the only one who feels this way. Think about one or two friends you could set aside some time to have coffee or a drink with. Ask them how they’re feeling, what their hopes are for the holiday season, what they might be struggling with. Then take some time to share as well. 

Play to your strengths

If you’re extroverted, this is your time to shine. Festivities out the yahoo, am I right? Mayhaps it would behoove you to use that social energy to reach out to your introverted friends. If they say yes, consider taking the time at the party to check in with them, let them awkwardly follow you around, or connect them with someone with whom you think they will hit it off. 

If you’re introverted, feel free to lean on your exceptional listening skills. Most people love talking about themselves. Or, use that rich inner world to think of non-exhausting ways to spend time with people, like a movie night or going to a holiday pops concert. 

Maybe you love baking, or you love picking out gifts, or decorating. Maybe you’re really handy. This is a great time to meaningfully connect with people through service. Perhaps there’s a married friend you want to spend time with, but they’re stretched thin. What if you offered to come over and help them wrap gifts?  

Say no 

Though I am aggressively introverted, I still enjoy spending time with the people I care about, and I love a good party on occasion. I am also a people pleaser, in that I believe that the worst thing I could do to another human is say no or make them uncomfortable in any way. Combine those two things and you get an overwrought, cranky Marebs blearily drifting from one obligation to the next. No one can own my limitations for me; no one can read my mind and tell me how I’m feeling. So I find it helpful to take a beat before responding to any invitation. I am learning to ask myself, What have I already agreed to for that day? Do I have the mental bandwidth to add on something else?  

Celebrate your wins

Everything is big and shiny right now. Maybe you’re drawn to the monstrosity of it all and feel like you’re never doing enough, but maybe if you keep doing things you’ll get there. Well, here’s the thing, that is a rabbit hole we will never find the bottom of. So take a minute to celebrate your wins. Maybe you said no to one thing today. Maybe you set aside five minutes to connect with yourself. Maybe you checked in with a friend. Maybe you let yourself feel sad. 

At the end of the day right before you turn on The Office for the millionth time, take a second to be proud of yourself. If you want to also think about one or two ways to challenge yourself for tomorrow, go to town, but let’s stick with just one or two. Then by all means, bring on that Michael Scott cringiness. 

Picking up what I’m putting down?

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