Dear Therapist…

Dear Therapist,

How should I handle people’s expectations this season? I’ve had a rough year and am not sure how much I want to really engage in the merriment. Is it OK to take the season off?

Yes! It is definitely “OK” to take the season “off.”

Even though you may feel pressure to engage full throttle in all of the festivities, there are definitely years when it is absolutely necessary to lie low and care for yourself. This is the most important gift you can give to yourself.

A secondary gift you can give yourself, that will also serve as a gift to your loved ones, is to create a holiday boundary so that people will know that you are feeling less than merry and need a year off. This may mean you are stepping back completely or only in certain ways, i.e. present exchanges or hosting the feast.

Check in with yourself to see what feels true for you this season and then commit to yourself as to what you will and will not do this season. From there, let people know so their expectations will be set by you clearly out of your authentic truth.

If this is a first time you are taking a break and setting boundaries, you may find some people are not happy with your decision and try to pressure you to engage as you have in the past. Change is tough — for everyone! — particularly at the holidays. However, hold fast and stay true to you.

In a year (or two) you may feel once again in the mood to participate fully just as everyone has always remembered — or maybe not. Whatever you decide is the right decision.