When You Know Holidays Are a Struggle; What Helps?

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Inside: What is your biggest struggle or challenge of the season? Skip the pat answers and go deep. Here are 10 helpful holiday tips when you struggle this season.

**Disclosure: Post may contain affiliate links. See our full disclosure here.

Today I have the honor of sharing a post from Maree of Embracing the Unexpected. Her site is filled with encouragement and inspiration when life isn’t going how we expected. I know you will find a wealth of encouragement at Embracing the Unexpected.

Does the mere mention of the upcoming holidays cause you to gasp for air, sweat profusely, or wish the season was over before it begins? Maybe you know up front the holidays are going to be a struggle; which makes it hard to look forward to them. However, understanding what helps can make a world of difference.

What is your biggest struggle or challenge of the season? #HeartBreakHoliday Share on X Skip the pat answers and go deep. The difficulty will be unique to each of us.

As I sit here pondering how to describe the difficulty my eyes well up with tears and drop one by one on to my lap. The screen becomes blurry as my fingers attempt to capture my thoughts.

Holidays are hard around here!

I don’t share my pain too often because I get so caught up in knowing someone else’s pain is more. You see I am a momma to loved ones with mental illness. The holidays are tough for them so speaking of my struggles seems wrong. Yet – I am the first to tell others –

Making a Helpful Holiday

All pain is significant and should be mourned and acknowledged.

All you mommas out there know when our children hurt, so do we. Watching their struggle unfold breaks my heart in two. But then to add insult to injury, sometimes I contribute to their misery with my out of whack desires, expectations, and wants for the holidays.

If it were up to me, I would have a house full of people, music playing all around me, and jam-pack my schedule with the many activities available during the holidays. I would live it to the fullest, but I have found through trial and error this doesn’t work for my family.

What brings me joy, brings stress, noise, and an interrupted schedule. Please click here and read about what it is like to navigate the holidays with a mental illness.

It is a delicate balancing act being able to meet others unique needs and your own. #HeartBreakHoliday Share on X. What should be seasons of joy can quickly turn painful, stressful, demanding and sometimes a little bit ugly.

Does this sound a little familiar? Sometimes our quest to make it perfect or to fulfill our expectations can turn it all upside down and miserable.

My ten-page list of things to accomplish in December had to be adjusted. The perfect china setting, ideal presents, and gorgeous decorations were just no longer a priority.

For me, focusing on God became most important because Christmas was impossible without his love, peace, and guidance. God was able to show me incredible blessings in the midst of my child’s mental illness.

Maybe it is time for you to take a look at what is most important.

Through the blessings, a new attitude was born, and you know the funny thing even I enjoyed the holidays more.

So when the holidays are approaching or a season of strife, I choose to minimize the battle by adhering to a few things.


10 Helpful Holiday Tips When You Struggle. What is your biggest struggle or challenge of the season? Skip the pat answers and go deep. Here are 10 helpful holiday tips when you struggle this season. #struggle #HeartBreakHoliday #mentalhealth #Christmas

How to Make a Helpful Holiday in a Season of Struggle?

Put God First in Your Day

Be on your knees and in your Bible without ceasing.

The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.

(Psalm 29:11, NIV).

Know Your Priorities

Remember what is most important and keep those thoughts at the forefront of your mind. My mantra is “Relationships are the most important thing.” So in those intense moments, I remember what is most important it’s the connection, not being right, not getting something accomplished but the gift God gave me to be in a relationship with others.


“It is what it is.” No time to waste worrying about what could have been or what I want it to be.

Quit People Pleasing

You can’t make everyone happy.

Let Go

Release your need for perfection and the expectations you set in your mind. #HeartBreakHoliday Share on X. One can’t attain it anyways, and what we dreamed up is usually unrealistic.

Just letting go can be a helpful holiday win!

Grieve Your Losses

No stuffing or pretending them away. Yes, it is sad your Christmas is not what you thought it would be. Grieve the sadness you feel for your loved ones. Mourn the milestones not yet reached, and the parties you will miss. Grieve because when you do, it will allow you to see what you have.

Count Your Blessings

When we focus on being grateful, it brings an attitude change and an abundance of love.

Recognize Two Things Can Be True at the Same Time

We are capable of feeling great joy and great sadness at the same time. One does not cancel the other out. Yes, it is sad someone is missing from the table, but we can also feel joy for those who are present.

Grasping these thoughts can make it a helpful holiday!

Live in the Present Moment

We don’t have to live yesterday and tomorrow right now. Sometimes the current minute will ache but better to experience only one moment of pain rather than all the past and future suffering.

10 Helpful Holiday Tips When You Struggle. What is your biggest struggle or challenge of the season? Skip the pat answers and go deep. Here are 10 helpful holiday tips when you struggle this season. #struggle #HeartBreakHoliday #mentalhealth #Christmas

Slow Down

You can’t fit an entire season into an already busy life. It just doesn’t work.

When you recognize, the holidays will carry an extra struggle, knowing where you will turn and what you will do is imperative. Make a choice this Holiday season to head in with your priorities set and your game plan ready. It may be the best one ever.

Please share with us what works well in your home at the holidays.

Maree Dee is a Writer | Speaker | Advocate – passionate about “Embracing Life In The Midst Of The Unexpected.” She is a work in progress, accepting God’s grace and mercy every day. Maree believes together with God we can find incredible blessings along the way – even in the midst of the unexpected.

Drop by and visit her at www.embracingtheunexpected.com/ She can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Embracing Faith and Mental Illness from a Caregiver’s Perspective.


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  1. Julie, Thank you for the opportunity to guest on your site. It is such an honor. I love the pictures you chose to go along with the post. Hoping my writing will speak to the heart of your readers.

  2. Maree, this is such a good post! I love all your wisdom and the insights you brought out. Such practical advice and so much of it takes the pressure off an already stressful time. I just love this and will be sharing!

  3. How fun to see two friends here in the same place today. 🙂 Maree, your strength is an inspiration. Love how you use what you learn through the struggle to help others. Thank you for sharing Maree with us today, Julie. A blessed holiday season to you both. xoxo

    1. Brenda, You are always so sweet with your words. Thank you! I hope that others can learn through our struggle. I sure learn from others that are willing to share. Blessing to You This Holiday Season. Maree

  4. Maree I’m so glad you have on your list ‘two things can be true at the same time’! ‘And’ is such an important concept that so often gets switched with ‘but’. God created us as complex individuals with the capacity to experience multiple thoughts and emotions at one time.

    1. Melissa, Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. It is always so encouraging. I know for me learning the concept that “two things can be true at the same time” was a life changer. God sure did make us complex.

  5. I really appreciate this post! I especially like how you pointed out we can feel great joy and great sadness at the same time. I live in a different country from my parents and siblings so I do feel great sadness every holiday and it makes me feel guilty. As if I am not thankful for my husband and kids here because I miss my family there. Anyway, great post! Thanks!

    1. Sandy,

      I bet you feel both emotions being far away. I remember one Mother’s Day, I had one child away and two with me. No one quite knew how to treat me. I finally announced I would shed tears, but I was also joyful for who was with me. I think it took down the heightened emotions for everyone once I allowed myself to embrace both. Praying you embrace both and don’t feel one bit guilty. Maree

  6. Wow!! I wanted to point out a few on the list that really hit me, but, to be honest, they all hit my heart. Where it all begins to shape, though, is each morning when we hit our knees to submit our day to our All Mighty Father! Feeling completely convicted, but I appreciate your bluntness! <3

    1. Katie,
      I had to smile. I needed that bluntness coming right back at me. I just realized I heed my own words this morning. I skipped my time on my knees and it just might be why I am feeling a little Christmas stress. Thank you for pointing me back to where I need to be.

  7. Katie,
    I had to smile. I needed that bluntness coming right back at me. I just realized I heed my own words this morning. I skipped my time on my knees and it just might be why I am feeling a little Christmas stress. Thank you for pointing me back to where I need to be.

  8. I absolutely needed this list today. What you said about watching our children struggle, but then adding our expectations of what the holidays should look like really hit home.

    1. Allyson – It is so hard to drop or modify our expectations. I will always be a work in progress. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. Happy Holidays! Maree

  9. So much honest truth here! We should always start our day with God…love that! “Let go” really spoke to me. It is so hard at times to let go and allow God to work when we are struggling with trying to control things on our own, but that is truly the best thing to do.

  10. “We are capable of feeling great joy and great sadness at the same time.” Most people don’t understand this. We can be sorrowful yet always rejoicing. 2 Corinthians 6:10

    1. Susan,
      I am so glad you stopped by and left a comment. The verse you included was perfect. I am going to include that one in a graphic this week on social media.

    1. Alice – I like what you said, “I don’t need perfect, just healthy.” I too make tons of lists. I actually make a list of “must do.” and “want to do.”
      Merry Christmas,

  11. What an apropos post for the upcoming holidays. Not only do the holidays not look like what we had wanted, life doesn’t either. One of the best things I’ve learned was from a counselor I went to. Sometimes we have to make a coffin for those expectations we had and have a funeral. Only then can we accept what life now looks like and move on. Great post. Thanks for sharing. – Amy

    1. Amy,

      Wow, quite an idea to put our expectations in a coffin and have a funeral. So true our holidays and life aren’t quite what he anticipated. It would be good to bury them away. Thank you for the helpful tip.

  12. All pain is important to grieve. Redefining our expectations for the holidays and being flexible will help us enjoy them more than if we were frustrated because not everything was accomplished in just the right manner.

  13. Oh, my three family Christmases is a lot for one weekend. I can only imagine the work that went into all of those. I hope you enjoyed your gatherings and you will have some time to rest and catch up. Maree

  14. Great post and wonderful advice, Maree! We have scaled way back at Christmas, too, and we SO enjoy the beauty and peace of the season now. The world demands much, but the only One we are to please is the One Who was born that calm, serene first Christmas night. God bless you this Christmas season!

    1. Cheryl,
      Thank you! God bless you too this Christmas season.

      We are scaling back this Christmas too. I am looking forward to concentrating on what is most important. “JESUS.” and then second relationships.


  15. Such wisdom in this post, Maree. I especially like the sayings, “Two things can be true at the same time” and “Grieve your losses.” I deal with mentally ill loved ones, so this post resonates deeply with me. Blessings and God’s peace to you this Advent season.

    1. Sarah, Thank you! Praying your holidays are filled with joy, love, and peace. We would love to have you join us in our closed facebook group for people who love someone with a mental illness. The link is above in my bio – Embracing Faith and Mental Illness from a Caregivers Perspective.

  16. I have a bundle of emotions around this holiday too. I appreciate your reminder that we can feel more than one thing at one time. Too often we don’t give ourselves permission to do that. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Lisa, You are not alone. For me learning two things can be true at the same time was a lifesaver in seasons of difficulty. It made persevering much easier and “joy” was found and experienced. Thank you for your kind comment. Maree

  17. Love your post today Maree Dee.
    Sometimes when we face struggles, the very One we need to hang on to is the One we leave out. But it doesn’t take long for us to realize we need Him so much. Scaling back is a great way to let more Jesus in. Whether crazy or calm, may the presence and love of God fill your heart this Christmas. I need it to fill mine too. Blessings.

    1. Lureta, Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I loved it. I want you to know I am praying right now as I send this that God will fill your heart with his love and presence and that you will be able to hang to it throughout the entire season. I have to admit it is a constant battle and I am heading your words and scaling back. Blessings, Maree

  18. This is a beautiful message Maree. Thank you for sharing your struggles with the world. It is needed. (I’m going to head over to your site and comment there, as well.
    Thanks for hosting Maree’s story, Julie!

  19. I find that slowing way down is really a help for me. It gives me time to think and time to really appreciate the small things that are going on around me and time to breathe… which is sometimes the thing that helps the most. Thanks for your post!

    1. Karen,
      I love your suggestion of slowing down. I was forced to do a little bit of that this week. Hoping it fuels me for the week ahead. Thank you for stopping by and adding to our conversation.


  20. Maree,

    I wish I had known you long before I learned some of these things the hard way… though I am wondering if my younger self would have listened. ( probably not). Holidays have ALWAYS been hard for us and always been less than what I had hoped for. Like you I had a list and a plan and a hope that didn’t always fit with the rest of my people’s allowance.

    ‘It is what it is’ has become an answer I make for many things lately…and I am reminded that it is ok. What we have, who we are as a family, where we are…. it is what it is… and God has not left us abandoned or alone or unchosen. And that is becoming enough. 🙂

    Love this post!Thanks for being such an encourager and sharing because of all you have learned and gone through.

    And thanks, Julie, for being a messenger for this message by opening our home here. So glad you shared this at the #GraceMoments Link Up.

  21. Dawn,
    I think we all learn from each other. It has taken me years to let this wisdom sink in. I fought it. I too wish the younger me would have known what I know now.

    It has been a week of saying, “It is what it is” and “God you must have a plan because it certainly is not how I planned it.” “God, I will trust in you.”

    My heart has been filled with those that have gone before me that have taught me the lessons. It is a joy to pass on what I have learned and what helps me in hopes it will help someone else.

    So grateful to have met you. I cherish your friendship and prayers. I hope we can meet in person someday.

  22. My dad is disabled. My mom is primary caregiver. They are both in their 80s and I live 2 states away. i go visit as much as I can, but every time I go, he’s a little more frail, and needs a little more care. I always have lots of overwhelming feelings when I leave… so yes. I get what you are saying. sometimes the holidays are not all filled with joy and laughter. Thanks for your tips here. I really have learned to just slow down. it’s not really about gifts or the perfect christmas dinner. it’s really about people. all the other stuff doesn’t really matter so much.

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