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  • Writer's pictureErika Sardinha

How to Have a Happy and Healthy Christmas

It is that time of the year again. And even though I'd love to feel a wave of warm emotions and have my brain inundated with good memories when I look at the Christmas tree or Santa Claus himself, that's not exactly how I feel. 

When I was a kid, Christmas at home felt bittersweet. I was craving attention and love so much that I would take every bit of it, but at the same time, I knew it was all fake. The day after Christmas, or the next one, my household would turn into the same abusive and toxic place again, and even on Christmas day, there was this crippling fear of everything getting ruined by the slightest misstep. It was scary and unsettling. 

As I grew up, Christmas became the synonym for hypocrisy to me. "Let's all get together and pretend we're a happy family for a minute. It doesn't matter if no one is comfortable around anyone if there is abuse, lies, and isolation." - I used to think to myself. 

I am not going to lie; part of me was still hoping to experience a beautiful Christmas day one day with no fear or anxiety; just love, happiness, and a true celebration of human connection.

I learned later on that that was a little bit difficult to achieve. 

Society has our expectations for Christmas high. And when you have a family where love can not flow easily, and respect is not the word of the day, the math doesn't math. So, I had to change my mentality around the topic of Christmas, and I want to share with you what worked for me in the hopes that it will help you have a happier and healthier Christmas.

Make peace with Christmas. 

I feel a bit vulnerable sharing this, but I used to walk around like Christmas has done something to me. That was little Erika inside me, grieving the experiences she did not have but not being able to express them. Now I understand that the adult people in my life were the ones who caused a traumatic experience that got stuck with me. 

I am still not the biggest fan of Christmas, but I made peace with it; I can still appreciate that it is a beautiful time of the year. That alone helped me put my guard down and enjoy the good side of this holiday. 

I also have to mention that the body keeps score of our past experiences, and it remembers, so it's only expected that you would feel a certain way around this time if there was trauma involved. More on that in 'Preparation for Christmas.' 

Redefine Christmas Day.

This is where it gets fun: Christmas can be whatever you make it to be, and you get to spend it with whomever you choose, even if that means being at home by yourself in pajamas watching Disney movies and eating candy, enjoying the fact that it's a holiday so you don't have to leave the house. 

It's a matter of taking all the societal and family pressure out of the picture so you can let your true self speak and decide what's best for you. 

What would you do this Christmas if society or family demands weren't at the back of your mind when making decisions for the holiday season? 

Preparation for Christmas

When preparing for Christmas, we usually only think of presents, shopping, food allergies, and stress; brace for impact! But in reality, the most important thing here is to mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for the day, especially if stress is guaranteed. 

There are many different ways to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. My favorites for these stressful situations are tapping meditation, which I practice before, during, and sometimes after to let it all out, and journaling. Journaling is a beautiful way to unpack your feelings, manage your expectations, and explore new ways of responding (not reacting). 

Lastly, I also like to have a 'bare minimum' self-care plan to apply during the holiday season. Even though you're crazy busy, what is the bare minimum you're committing to? 

Vulnerability where vulnerability is welcome and supported

Everything will feel lighter if you can get external support this holiday season. Lean into people you trust and be vulnerable about how you feel. You may even discover, in the process, that you're not the only one feeling this way. 

Sometimes, we look for comfort right where the stress resides, but that's not always the right choice. I've learned to be vulnerable with people open to receiving it instead of always going against the current. Some family members do not have the capacity for open communication, and that's okay. That's not the only space where we can be vulnerable and get validation and support. 

So, open up to trustworthy people or professionals about your holiday season struggles, and find comfort and support. You don't have to do this alone.  

Ready, Set, Boundaries!  

The main reason why we have a difficult time during the holiday season is because we don't know how to set boundaries.

We may be the best at setting boundaries at work, but when it comes to family and loved ones, we know too well it is difficult as hell. Yeah, I said it. I had to. I know your pain. 

But even though it's difficult, the gains surpass the losses by ten million. One way to make it easier is to define your boundaries beforehand. You can journal about it and name the consequences you're applying to people crossing your boundaries. 

Another big one is understanding that you will receive some pushback, and it's okay. People like predictable behavior, especially when it benefits them. So, being confronted with a new version of you will inevitably make them uneasy. Your job is to stick to your boundaries in those situations. 

I know you got this! 

So, are you ready to have a healthier and happier holiday season?

Love and light, 



Ps: If you found this post helpful and insightful, please share it with someone who could benefit from reading it. 

Pps: Don't have a self-care plan yet? Download my free 50 Self-care Ideas for Survivors here. 


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