When the last pumpkin has decomposed and the last Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich has been devoured, we’re officially in the thick of the holiday season. Those who are not emotionally prepared for the twinkly onslaught can grinch and grouse about the early arrival of holiday décor in their local box store, or the pervasiveness of Christmas songs on the radio for a few weeks. At some point though, the transition is inevitable. It’s Christmastime.

So what’s to be done if you just…can’t? First off, take a deep, pepperminty breath and just relax. Not all who walk this earth are natural holiday revelers. It doesn’t mean your hesitation can’t yield to a jolly good time with the proper motivation. Some seasons are more difficult than others. Sometimes, we simply need a gentle reminder to appreciate the elements of the season we actually enjoy, and to let go of the pieces that induce stress. So, before you decide to drown yourself in amped-up eggnog, consider a few healthier tactics.

Just Say Yes

We’ve all heard the old adage, “fake it ‘til you make it.” It’s an enduring platitude because it occasionally really works. You may not feel like loading your family onto the Conch Tour Train for the holiday lights tour or braving the crowds at the harbor to catch the Lighted Boat Parade. But you know what? Just go. Maybe your mildly annoying neighbor is hosting what’s sure to be a dud of a party. Tell him you’ll be there. Drunken office party showcasing truly questionable judgement from the typically quiet administrator? Sure, it could be entertaining. Your kid’s holiday play with hours of cringe-worthy singing and homemade costumes? Well, you have to go to that. Sorry. The point is, just show up and try to enjoy yourself. You’ll either end the night in a better mood, with some great bits of gossip, or at least a good buzz. 

Technology Saves

When humans fail us, technology is there to nurture us. Every streaming music service currently hosts a splashy homepage featuring holiday classics. If you’re feeling deeply melancholy, put on a little Nat King Cole and some cozy slippers. If you can handle taking things up a level, skip to Mariah Carey and throw some slice-and-bake cookies in the oven. If you need a visual distraction, never fear, every channel on your smart TV has already anticipated this desire. Amazon, Netflix and all the rest are showcasing comforting bites of nostalgia, like the Charlie Brown Christmas special and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” For those requiring deeper dives into seasonal schmaltz, the Hallmark Channel offers entire days of predictable, monocultural, heteronormative, snowy Connecticut happily-ever-after holiday tales. Really, it’s OK, you need this.

Give Back

Sure, it’s good advice any time of the year, but there’s something about the holidays that amplifies the impact of good deeds. Plus, this time of year makes those do-gooder opportunities easier to find. Most local nonprofits and churches need help helping families in their sphere. There is nothing more rewarding than snagging a wish list from an ‘angel tree’ and shopping for a family you will never meet. If you get more joy from seeing the expressions of your loved ones opening gifts, then by all means, scratch that itch. If you have the means, shop big and share the wealth. Surprise your niece with that new bike and you’ll both be happy. If you’re watching your funds, consider baking a kitchen full of cookies and sharing them with neighbors and coworkers. (As one of those coworkers who loves homemade baked goods, I can tell you it will be appreciated.) Whether the effort is big or small, helping others is also self-serving, because let’s be honest, it feels good to do good. 

In the Words of Elsa

Let it go. If all else fails, let yourself off the stocking hook. You’re not obligated to have a merry time for the entirety of December. The world around you may be all snow-globey and sweet, but the space you occupy could feel a little dimmer. And here’s the secret — that’s absolutely OK. As long as you’re keeping yourself in a healthy space, seeking conversation and communion if you need it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with checking out of the holidays. 

You could live boldly and just not celebrate. Maybe in your book, Dec. 25 is a great day to go fishing and order pizza. Give yourself a gift and know that it’s a day well spent.

Erin gets to flex her creative muscle as Artistic Director of the Studios of Key West but has also completed a graduate degree at Harvard, served as a National Park Service Search and Rescue volunteer, visited all 50 states, rescued a 300lb sea turtle, nabbed the title of Key West Ms. Gay Pride, and gotten involved with Special Olympics. She says yes to pretty much everything. Luckily her wife, daughter and crazed terrier put up with this.