Hey, friend:

Yes, you. The one who’s dreading the upcoming holiday season. I know you get this pit in your stomach whenever you think about it, but you try to put on a cheerful face for your kids and your family. You try so hard.

I know the holiday season for you isn’t all pumpkin spice and scoring great deals on gifts. For you, the holiday season is a source of sadness, disappointment, loneliness, and maybe even a little anger. It reminds you of what you’ve lost, that there aren’t enough paychecks between now and Christmas, and how this is just one more thing that isolates you from everyone else.

Did you know you can do the holiday season differently this year, friend? Did you know that you can stop putting pressure on yourself, draw hard lines in the sand about what you will and won’t do? Did you know your holiday season can be a bit more tolerable this year? Maybe not perfect, but not soul-suckingly awful either. Here’s how:

Feel free to grieve.

The holidays are supposed to be joyful and it’s sad when they’re not. Putting on a brave face isn’t a requirement. If you’re hurting or angry, honor and make room for those feelings.

Be okay with minimizing stress in whatever way you need to.

That may look like saying no to things that used to be yeses. Maybe it means skipping out on family functions that make you feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s enforcing a strict spending limit. Maybe it’s boundaries.

Prioritize what matters.

What are the things that matter to you most during this season? What are the things you actually like, not the things that you’re obligated to enjoy? Make time for those things. Those things should be higher up on your list.

Do something for you.

Maybe the holidays aren’t your favorite, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing your favorite things. Why not reframe this season as a time when you focus on the things that also make you happy?

I hope this season turns out to be a better one for you this year. Are the holidays usually hard for you? How do you cope?