It’s that time of year where holiday stress, I mean cheer, is everywhere. What happens when you layer divorce stress on top of that? If your life currently looks like the opposite of a Hallmark holiday movie, you may be dreading the holidays.

A lot of people try to stick it out through the holidays, whether for their kids, to avoid family judgment at holiday gatherings, or a million other reasons. But if you’re completely miserable, people can probably already tell. You don’t have to spend the holidays with a fake smile plastered on your face pretending like nothing is wrong.

Below are some tips for avoiding an unhappy holiday season.

Take action, then take a break.

The uncertainty created by divorce is hard at any time of year and particularly at the holidays. To take back some control, figure out what actions you can take to make yourself feel better about the process. What will make you feel that you have accomplished enough so you can relax over the holidays? Is it meeting with an attorney? Filing the case? Setting a date for mediation? Identify what concrete steps are reasonable to achieve right now. (Hint: it is not finalizing your divorce—that is going to take some time.)

Once you’ve taken those key steps, take a break for the holidays. Check with your lawyer that there are no deadlines coming up (and see if you can get an extension if there are). Know that your spouse’s lawyer and the judge are also taking time off during the holidays, so cases don’t move as fast at this time of year. Assuming there are no emergency issues in your case, slowing down for a few weeks won’t hurt.

Make resolutions early.

Resolutions are usually about self-improvement or self-care. Why not get a jump start? Any self-care resolution is going to make you feel better. Maybe it’s exercising more, meditating, or starting a gratitude practice. None of these things have to wait for January. Starting them during the holidays will give you the healing benefits before all the stress of the holidays and your divorce kicks in.

Your self-improvement goals may be tied to things related to your divorce. Maybe you want to become more knowledgeable about the family finances. Maybe you want to go back to school to improve your career prospects. Whatever your goals are, there is no reason you can’t start making progress. The satisfaction and empowerment you get from working on your goals can help you feel better over the holidays.

Create new traditions.

Your holiday season may look significantly different this year. You may be mourning the loss of old traditions. You may be sad that you don’t have as much holiday time with your kids. But the holidays are what you make of them. Your traditions weren’t traditions until someone thought to do them the first time. Create special moments that don’t center around just the holiday day.

For example, you could start a tradition of going to see the lights at the Botanical Gardens or watching a specific holiday movie every year. These events can be done on any day, but still put you in the holiday spirit. You could start a (virtual) Friendsgiving to connect more with people you don’t always see around the holidays.

If you have kids and are already living in separate homes, you can create shared traditions between your homes. You may decide to do Elf on the Shelf in both homes. You might agree that everyone in the family is still going to wear matching holiday pajamas and schedule a call between homes when everyone is first waking up. You could do a cookie exchange between households where the kids make cookies with each parent to bring to the other parent. This is an opportunity to create exciting new traditions—and even give your kids some say in those traditions.

Do not overcommit.

Everyone is guilty of overcommitting sometimes. As much fun as the holidays are, all the activity can be stressful. Remind yourself to say no to things you don’t have the time or energy for. If you find that you’ve overcommitted yourself, know that you are allowed to change your mind.

There may be some things you do every year that it makes sense to let go of this year. Do you spend hours stuffing, addressing, and stamping holiday cards? You could simplify this by sending an ecard (or skip it entirely this year). Do you have the best holiday decorations in your neighborhood? I’m sure they look great, but you do not have to put them up. The holidays will still happen whether your decorations are up or not. Do you spend hours shopping to find the absolute perfect gift for everyone on your list? This might be the year to try gift cards.

Saying no applies to holiday events as well (even if they are virtual). You do not have to accept every invitation you receive. Set a time to catch up with the people you really want to connect with in January when everything has calmed down for everyone.
You are not a grinch if you skip out on some stuff this year.

Form a support team.

You might not be ready to go totally public about your divorce. Or maybe everyone already knows. Either way, you need a support team to get you through the holidays. Identify a few key people that you feel comfortable telling or that you can enlist for support.

Tell your support team WHAT they can do and HOW they can support you. This makes it easier for them to give you the support you actually need. But if you don’t know what you need, it’s okay to tell them that too. Sometimes you just need someone to know what you’re going through and have your back.

Are you getting divorced during the holidays in Georgia?

You don’t have to face the experience alone. Hiring a compassionate, quality attorney lets you prioritize your holidays while your attorney prioritizes your divorce. An attorney can also help you identify what you actually need to do for your divorce now and what can wait until the new year.

At Porchlight, we recognize your divorce is not the only important thing going on in your life. We will work with you to ensure your divorce has as little negative impact on your holidays as possible.

If you’re ready to get your divorce under control so you can focus on your holidays, call us at 678-435-9069 to schedule a Legal Clarity Session.