Do you ever just wish you could be in one of those Cameron Diaz-esque holiday movies, where things are “really bad” (even though they’re by all accounts amazing) so you embolden yourself, go on some grand adventure house-swap thing, fall in love, and by the end you magically connect meaningfully with everyone who’s ever bothered you in your whole life and the whole family is dancing together dressed like models in the LK Bennett holiday catalog?

We all sometimes long for the rom-com version of life, where there are like, two crying scenes then everything gets resolved. But that’s not often how family connections unfold, and by not often, I basically mean never.

Comments about your weight and diet, fielding questions about your relationship (or lack there of), zero alone time, listening to your brother’s vegan, preachy girlfriend discuss the inhumanities of the meat industry while swinging the beautiful new Isabel Marant leather ankle boots that adorn her feet as she sits directly across from  you…

Ahhh, the holidays.

If a little annoyance and hypocrisy is all you have to get through, consider yourself lucky.

There’s a whole other tier of drama that many of us are all too familiar with.

Incredibly difficult moments that have a way of rearing their ugly heads during the holidays.

Family dysfunction, social pressures, comparing yourself to others, stressful and expensive travel, body issues, (did I say family dysfunction already?), emotional issues and mood disorders are often magnified during this time of year. 

It’s easy to feel lonely, “blah,” quick to anger, melancholy, or otherwise alienated from the holiday cheer everyone else seems to be enjoying.

You, my friend, are not alone.

Here are four mantras to help keep you anchored during awkward and difficult holiday moments:

“I don’t have to react to everything I notice.”

“The way people treat me is a direct reflection of what’s going on with them and whether or not they’re happy with themselves.”

“I can take as many bathroom breaks/walks/rests as I want.”*

“Everyone has someone in their family with some kind of mental health issue that goes untreated and unchecked.  Everyone.” 

You can also read this Time article on 4 ways to cope with holiday stress, watch these perfect non-holiday holiday movies, and step up your self-care game.

Katherine Schafler is an NYC-based psychotherapist, writer and speaker.  For more of her work, join her newsletter community, read her blog, or follow her on Instagram.  

*Not the case if you have kids, but even taking one minute in the bathroom and doing some deep breathing, putting cold water on  your wrists, or refreshing with the lotions and potions in there can be helpful.  (And if it’s not helpful, you tried–and that counts for something.)

Originally published at

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  • Katherine Schafler

    NYC-based psychotherapist, writer and speaker.

    Katherine earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology at UC Berkeley before obtaining two Masters from Columbia University, one focused on clinical assessment and the other on psychological counseling. Additionally, she completed post-graduate training and certification at the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy in NYC.