The couple-centric nature of the holiday season can be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re not in a relationship. The holiday parties full of plus ones, the questions about why you’re single from extended family, the sheer number of couples out on ice skates and drinking hot cocoa — it’s hard enough when you’re single, but if you’re recently single it can be even harder. If you’re going through a breakup over the holidays, it can feel like a minefield, full of things that can make you feel alone or regretful at every turn. That’s why it’s so important to take care of yourself during this time of year.
It is possible to get through this holiday season without feeling like you’re totally inundated with pressure to be in a couple, insensitive questions, or just a lot of reminders of your ex. The first thing to remember is to put yourself first. The holidays can be all about socializing, buying gifts for other people, fulfilling duties and obligations — so to start with, it may be helpful to shift your mindset and focus on yourself. This is especially true if you’re going through a rough time.
Once you reframe how you look at the holidays, here’s how you can survive the season — even when you’re in the middle of a breakup.
1. Reorganize Your Social Calendar
There’s a good chance you filled up your holiday calendar way in advance — probably with your ex in mind. It’s time to revamp it. Look through it and pick the events that are the easiest to cancel or that you know will be the most difficult to face in the midst of a breakup and give yourself permission to bow out of those. Instead, replace those events with something that will make you feel good, like activities with close friends and family or doing things you enjoy. “Keeping busy is important for people during the holidays especially when a breakup occurs,” Dr. Dawn Michael, M.A. PhD ACS CSC, tells Bustle. “This is the time to join a solo activity like yoga, or any group that is for single people staying connected with others. If there is a meetup in your area with activates you like to do then join in.”
2. Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations If You Can
Over the holidays you may see lots of people who you only see a few times a year, like extended friends or family who may ask you about your ex and how your relationship is going. Save yourself the trouble of having the same conversation 100 times by having a friend or parent spread news about the breakup. You may still have to face some prying questions, but at least you wouldn’t be having to relive the breakup with everyone you talk to.
If your relatives keep questioning you on why you’re single again — which can definitely happen — try to be direct and end the conversation. “A great answer is to warmly engage their eyes, look at them, and say, ‘Thank you so much for asking and for your care about me; I know that when the right match for me shows up, I’ll be ready,” Kac Young, PhD, author of 21 Days to the Love of Your Life, tells Bustle. And if it’s too awkward, just walk away.
3. Ditch Social Media
This is good advice during any breakup, but especially if you’re away from your friends and support network over the holidays: stay off social media. “If someone is struggling through a breakup and fixated on their ex, staying actively engaged in the relationship through social media will make it harder to move forward and the recovery will take longer,” Dr. Cortney Warren, clinical psychologist and contributing EXpert for EXaholics.com, tells Bustle. Seeing your ex’s cozy holiday snaps and obsessing over whether or not they’ve watched your Instagram story is not going to do you any good. Put the phone away or, at the very least, block or unfollow anyone who’s going to make you feel badly about yourself.
4. Embrace The Free Time
If you were completely booked up for the holidays and the breakup means that now find yourself with more free time, make use of the time by practicing some self-care. Yoga, a manicure, read, a nap, a walk — take as much time as you need doing things that aren’t related to your ex or to the holidays by focusing on something just for you.
“Keep your thoughts in the present as much as possible and try not to think about past events until the holidays passes,” Michael says. Doing things you love can help.
5. Avoid The Backslide
Holiday breakups are especially tricky because, with all of the talk of good will and fresh starts flying around, it’s really tempting to want to reach out to your ex. But that’s a slippery slope. A simple holiday message can make things complicated in a hurry, so even if you’re tempted to reconnect it’s crucial that you remember what’s best for you.
“The only reason you should ever get back together with an ex is because you’re willing to accept them exactly as they are,” sex and relationship expert Ravid Yoseftells Bustle. “Acceptance, no matter the circumstances, is the only way that you can make it when that thing that was wrong in the first place creeps up again.” Reconnecting over the holidays may just cause more heartache in the long run.
6. Watch Out For Other Exes
It’s not just the recent breakup that you have to worry about, it’s also those other exes that tend to come out of the woodwork around the holiday season. “The end of the year makes many people feel introspective,” Dr. Erika Martinez, licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. “It’s not unusual for exes to reach out since they’ve been reminiscing and feeling nostalgic. This is especially true when there’s more possibility of connecting as people return home for the holidays.”
So pay attention to how you feel. If hanging out with an ex is going to make you feel better, go for it. But be mindful of making decisions that could make you feel worse in the long run, especially when you’re in a vulnerable place.
Going through a breakup during the holidays isn’t easy, but if you can focus on the fun parts of the holiday season — and give yourself permission to bow out of the rest — then it make a huge difference. Instead of running the gauntlet, prioritize your needs this year. You deserve it.
Originally posted on Bustle