Surviving The Hectic, Harrowing, Holiday Season Hoopla

photo courtesy of Nathan Lemon, Unsplash

The holiday season has arrived. It’s a busy time for psychotherapists. Or it will be: In January when all of the retraumatized, triggered, overwhelmed, lonely, exhausted, disappointed humans reach out for help.

No one is immune to the hectic harrowing holiday season hoopla. You may think that you’re the only one bewildered, lonely or sad. You aren’t. And if you’re super sensitive and if you have high ethical standards and a social conscience, this may be a particularly tough time. It’s a crazy world right now. And if you’re like me, single and childfree, you might have mixed feelings while you watch the frenetic humans running hither and  yon.

But whether you’re single and childfree or not, here are my recommendations:

• If this is a difficult, anxious time of the year for you, know that you’re not alone. Even those people with the big seemingly-happy families that you see on Facebook, are probably actually not that perky. They most likely have one or two or ten obnoxious relatives who dominate the conversation, drink too much, bully the children and bring an orange jello mold to every event.

• Now is a great time to rethink your holiday traditions, habits or expectations. What is it that you really want to do? Who do you really want to be with? What if this were your last holiday season? How would you spend it? Don’t wait until next year.

• Design a spiritual practice that supports your particular quirky connection to the Force. Maybe it includes a tree with ornaments. Maybe it includes the score to the musical Hamilton. Maybe it includes candles and wine. Perhaps you sit with the oak in your yard or you do tai chi by the lake. Whatever it is, make it yours. Let the Force be with you.

• Appreciate the quiet and peace in your home. Notice your exquisite woodwork.

• Order takeout for your holiday meal. Do not feel guilty.

• Start a blog. It’s a great way to express yourself and to feel loved. Ahem.

• Move your body in ways that work for you. This can include exercise. It’s not a great idea to spend the holiday season curled up under blankets eating pie. I recently discovered Katy Bowman’s Nutritious Movement. You might also find it a good alternative to sitting through too many episodes of Longmire.

• If you’re single, get the book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. The author, Sasha Cagen must have a rainforest mind. She’s sensitive, funny and she dances the Argentine tango. Sasha created a movement for single folks who cherish their solitude, want to find a mate, but who would rather be alone than settle for just anyone.

• Find some young, deeply cared-for children. They might be family members or friends’ or neighbors’ kids. Watch them as they unselfconsciously sing and dance to the songs from Moana. It will give you hope for the future. This is what love looks like.

Chances are, you won’t be able to avoid the hectic, harrowing holiday season hoopla. But you can use it as an opportunity to reassess your life. Your choices. The meaning you want to make. The influence you want to have. Instead of being among the frenetic and the retraumatized, use this time to find your voice. To build your path to a better world.

With or without the orange jello mold.

(Note: If you need ideas on building your path and haven’t read my book yet, that would be a good place to start!)


Thank you to little dancers Sydney, Shane and Bodhi and their fabulous parents for their sweetness and light.

To my bloggEEs: What are the holidays like for you? What are some ways that you’ve managed to celebrate that have been sweet or peaceful? What are ways that you might make changes? And if you’re lonely this holiday season, I’m sending you an extra hug. Thank you commenters for taking the time to share your thoughts, especially if you’re a perfectionist and it takes you an hour to write two sentences. Ha! I know you. And if you’re not commenting because it takes you an hour to write two sentences, I understand. Just keep reading.



Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

28 responses to “Surviving The Hectic, Harrowing, Holiday Season Hoopla”

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  1. Creative Ideas for Booknerds and Sensitive Outliers Wandering, Wondering, and Worrying Through the Holiday Season – YOUR RAINFOREST MIND

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  6. annahjamesart Avatar

    Oh, you made me smile…it took years of learning to say no to thanksgiving with family (the GAME is on!)…oh my. I’d rather be alone, and I get to be with friends.

    And seeing the bright grandkids dancing and singing to Moana, oh yes, that’s my world too. It’s complex, redesigning my life as a widow. Finding the places that are mine and not ours. Being thankful to be alive.

    I am grateful for your wise counsel here and in your book. Plus, you made me smile…

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, Annah. The holidays must be especially hard without your David. Sending you hugs.

      1. annahjamesart Avatar

        Thanks Paula. It hurts less this year. Leaning into life alone…hope you’re having a delicious holiday.

  7. The Gifted Human’s Guide To Normal | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] To my bloggEEs: How have you felt rejected because of your rainforest mind? Have you felt the desire to be normal? Are you able to connect with Nature or a spirituality that gives you some of the deep connection that you yearn for? Have you found some peeps who love you just as you are? Well, I’m sending you love right now for all of your rainforest-y abnormality! And if the holiday season is getting you down, this one’s for you. […]

  8. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Beautifully written post about the many challenges of the holidays. Such an important perspective – what it is like for those who are single and childless – or for anyone who does not feel he/she fits the Hallmark holiday stereotype. Thanks for sending out this support at the right time to so many.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing, Gail. it’s actually childfree. 🙂

  9. Jessie Avatar

    Thank you for this post, Paula! This second year without my dad was already going to be crappy. And then my new husband’s uncle died unexpectedly, so now he needs to stay here on the East Coast do be a caretaker for his mom (who was given 6 months to live about two years ago) while his dad goes off to the funeral in CA. This means he can’t make the 10 hour drive back to Detroit with me as he had planned, so we’ll be separated on Christmas; he’s already up with his mom, which makes him depressed. So I’m sitting about the house by myself for the next two days…and ill to boot. I’ve been sick for a while now…but finally got a new doctor to figure out what it was. A sinus infection! So we can finally treat my inability to breathe! This is a big deal because my old doctor wrote off said inability to breathe and related brain fog as symptoms of stress. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sick enough to miss the meeting of my local activist group, which always brings me down these days because of the hostility of a clique there. (Also, why are we having a meeting of a volunteer organization on December 20?!)

    I also recently started developing allergic symptoms whenever I sat in my car; I’m hoping that now that my sinus infection has been identified and treated, and that I installed a new cabin air filter myself (go me!) and got the upholstery shampooed that I will be able to breathe during the 10 hour drive, which incidentally looks like it will be through a rainstorm, and I’m scared of driving in the rain. To go to a house where Dad should be but isn’t.

    Well, I don’t get my dad, but I do get antibiotics. This is my little Christmas miracle and I’m crossing my fingers that they work.

    (HAH. Thank you for providing the opportunity to have a little pity party in your comments section, Paula. Somehow writing that out and declaring it publicly, making my bad mood into a little piece of flash memoir, helped me feel a bit better!)

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Wow, Jessie. That’s a lot all at once. Sending you big hugs!! <3

      1. Jessie Avatar

        Thank you, Paula. <3 I'll get through it!

  10. Gabi Avatar

    I’m one of the ones with all the children and family but we got out of visiting anyone for the holiday, Hallelujah! Now to get through the office party (everyone has to bring food and I hate to cook but oh well), and just happy that I can just ship the presents to the family. Oh and we somehow ended up buying a house this winter and our closing is on December 22nd!

    Daily yoga has been my salvation, and knitting and making snuggly things.

    Peace and warmth to all.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Good luck with the house, Gabi! Good to hear from you. Peace and warmth to you, too.

  11. j'adore champagne Avatar
    j’adore champagne

    Reblogged this on Jadorechampagne's Blog and commented:
    As usual, Paula nails it.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for the reblog!

  12. cmd1122 Avatar

    Thanks for the post, Paula! Still writing report cards and school only ends on the 22nd (ugh), but I’ve been enjoying helping my students organize and prepare ‘care packages’ for people who live in the streets/shelters. The giving-spirit helps to counter the realities of this hate-filled world mixed with obscene holiday shopping spree madness. Going to see a children’s choir sing is always wonderful (still on my to-do list for this year). For now, the classic Charlie Brown Christmas album is putting a smile on my face. I’ve also been printing off new sheet music (violin) to have fun learning and playing for my own enjoyment (after report cards).

    I’m thrilled that soon I’ll be anywhere but in front of my laptop. I plan to: burrow with books I’ve been meaning to read, with a warm beverage; write news-filled letters to a few close friends who live far away (I no longer worry if they only receive them in late January). I can’t wait to pull out some watercolour pencil crayons or beads or paint…No concrete plans, but I figure that out as I get into ‘flow’ mood. I’m lucky to have school breaks to do this, but when school is in-session, it is nearly impossible to have the energy or time to do anything very creative for a sustained period.

    I’m sort of dreading family time, but I think I’m improving at not letting their ignorant comments and opinions bug me too much. I’m very much looking forward to time with furry friends (dogs) that I don’t see often.

    I wish happiness, peace and a fascinating good read to all of you who follow Paula’s blog! 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      These are great ideas, cmd1122. Remember to protect yourself from the chainsaws. Feel that bright light that glows within. It will sustain you.

  13. cathytea Avatar

    My life partner (also a rainforest-mind folk) and I have spent a life together refashioning this season so that it fits the expression of our life. It’s been challenging for me to release old family traditions that I’ve outgrown and to find a way to move through the feeling in a way that feels authentic and true. In terms of self-care, keeping my mind active (especially on holiday days-off) is especially helpful! A few minutes with a Lumosity Brain Game, and my mind gets in sync again, chasing off the holiday blues. Your blogging tip is great, too! My blog has helped me a lot in feeling connected with others and in exploring and expressing questions and truths. Yesterday, I posted a holiday reflection piece which, I feel, expresses the ways that the holidays have shifted for me through my life. It’s a piece I’ve wanted to write for years.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing your blog post, cathytea. And keeping your mind active is a great suggestion!

  14. Ro Avatar

    I’m hoping to spend the middle of Christmas day alone this year. In the past, I’ve really enjoyed total quiet time on Christmas day – it’s how I feel most loved and safe and happy. I’m ceasing to visit with in-laws and an adult step-daughter who I simply don’t want to see (adult step-daughter’s existence was hidden from me until 10 years into my marriage when she was 13 years old. She deeply resents me despite my best efforts at building rapport and connection, and I’m not taking responsibility for what is not my responsibility any longer. She’s *actually* angry at her father – and his shortcomings are not for me to make up for).

    In the evening, I look forward to spending time with just my husband and teenage daughter.
    The Rod Stewart Christmas CD will be played as usual 🙂 It feels great to be reclaiming my right to a peaceful holiday. In the past my in-laws have admitted to using me as a buffer between them and my husband. I’m not a tool to be used by others – but a woman who cares about her own feelings and experience. I anticipate my daughter will enjoy the whole day, despite me not being present for a chunk of it.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Lovely, Ro. You have a right to a peaceful holiday!

  15. Chelsea Avatar

    I’m a little anxious this season. I usually get to stay home and spend quiet time with my boyfriend. But this year we are spending time with friends Christmas Eve, driving to his family on Christmas day, and driving to my family the day after. I am simultaneously excited and overwhelmed by all this socializing, which I think is what’s causing the anxiety. Hoping to find some peace among all this so that I don’t find myself exhausted and I can also enjoy everyone’s company. Not entirely sure how I’m going to manage it!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I hope you give yourself permission to take breaks and find some alone time, Chelsea. Sometimes, just getting away and taking a walk can help.

  16. Private Guy Avatar
    Private Guy

    Your post is not specifically addressed to introverts, but my big trigger over the holiday time is the parties that I am required to attend. By the time I get through December, I am usually a total wreck. Parties are horrible. If you are seeing patients as a result of the holiday season, I’m sure that you are seeing several people that are like me.

    Parties are hand grenades for those of us who are introverted, OE, and Sensing. If we are being forced to go (office party, etc.) then we have the added frustration of feeling out of control. Parties consist of the press of a gazillion souls crammed into a tiny space. There is loud music and people have to shout to be heard. If there is drinking, then there’s overt sexual stuff going on too.

    Every year I re-read the chapter in “Introvert Advantage” (Laney) on how to survive parties. There are many tips that help. If I can remember to do them, then I’m better off. An example would be to visit the bathroom often to escape the loud chaos and noise.

    For some reason, I keep telling myself that I’m tough and should be able to handle these things. But every time I get very messed up. This year I’ve arranged it so that I don’t have to attend any parties (Woo Hoo!).

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh yes, Private Guy! Thank you for mentioning introversion. I certainly should have brought that up. And parties. Eek. I forget about them since I’m self-employed and haven’t been to a party in a loooong time. I’m sure others will relate!