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Singles Guide to Surviving the Holidays

It starts with the turkey and stuffing. Then it’s time for presents and mistletoe. And only moments later, it seems you’re toasting to another new year.

The holiday season can seem like a blur. And you may be wondering how you are going to survive it this year. You ponder how you’ll hold on to your sanity when you show up at event after event…single…again. You wince at the thought of withering stares from Aunt Martha and awkward conversations about dating with your boss.

We completely sympathize. Being single during the holidays can feel like adding insult to injury. After all, you are already juggling a mountain of expenses, stress and social obligations. Who wants to think about not having that someone special to help you get through it all?

But we’re here to tell you there is a way to emerge from the holidays at peace with every part of your single self. All it takes is some preparation and the right perspective.

Surviving the Holiday Parties
Your company party invitation hangs on the fridge. There’s a message on the machine about your friend’s cocktail party. An e-mail sits in your inbox about a singles event. Your holiday calendar is not going to book itself – so it’s time to prioritize. The key is not to over-commit. Don’t make socializing a chore. Politely decline as early as you can if you can’t make it. However, make every effort to hit the events you’ve agreed to attend. It’s just polite and you’ll feel better about yourself.

To bring a date or not – that is THE question: You can always appreciate the company of a good date, especially if your plus one is a friend you tend to have a blast with consistently. However, if you think you need to work overtime to keep your guest entertained, it’s probably not worth the consideration. Don’t force an awkward date, if you don’t have to. The last thing you need is to play babysitter at your holiday party and create more stress for yourself.

An equally great option is to go stag. Yes, we are saying you can go alone. In fact, the holidays can be an opportune time to meet people and widen your dating circles. When it’s just you, there’s no pressure to keep someone else happy. Mingle freely without worry, and leave when it’s best for you.

At the company party: You may not have a romantic relationship at the moment, but you can never go wrong by investing in your professional relationships. Be a successful single. Build your personal brand at company events.

Get to know your colleagues on a personal level. Chat with the CEO and senior-level management. Introduce yourself to people you don’t work with daily. Just keep in mind that all the rules of the office apply, and keep all the socializing professional.

At a “couples” party: If most of your friends are paired off and you can’t help but feel envious, you’re not alone. The thought of being one of the few single people at an event can make you want to stay in and eat a plate of cookie dough.

But remember, friends support each other, and choosing to spend time with your paired-off pals can be even more meaningful during this time of year. So put aside your single status and focus on your role in the friendship. Get ready to share fond memories of the past and create new ones together.

Surviving the Family
Seeing the relatives during the holidays can be intolerable, especially if you’re constantly deflecting the “who,” “why” and “when” questions about a significant other, why you’re single and when you plan to get married. Preparing yourself mentally for this type of assault is half the battle. With the proper mind-set, you can survive even the most insensitive family probing.

Mantra #1: You can’t change your family: The key to enjoying time with your family comes from realizing first and foremost that you can’t change them. Any effort to do so will only leave you frustrated. In the end, the only person you will ever have control over is yourself. So relinquish all the things you’d like your family to hand you (acceptance, appreciation, etc.), and dig deep to cultivate them within yourself. Shifting your self-perception is always far more realistic than forcing other people to think and behave the way you want them to.

Mantra #2: Timing is everything: Being able to cope with your family is one part managing your expectations and another part knowing your personal threshold for pain. There is always that one relative you can’t bear or others you can only manage to spend a few hours with before contemplating homicide. Decide ahead of time who you want to see and how much time you want to spend with them. Then stick to your guns and get out of any situation when you can’t keep your cool.

Mantra #3: Deflect and conquer: Your relatives will always find a way to sneak in a question about your dating situation – well-meaning or not. In anticipation of this, your best strategy is to come prepared with a response. Being reactive, defensive or frustrated will only dampen the conversation and your holiday mood.

So when they start to probe, simply say, “There’s no news in that area…but how’s your family doing?” making the initiator the object of conversation. Distract from the original question. Pay attention. Ask questions and be a good listener.

Another great approach is to report, “Nothing new on that front,” and then proceed to talk endlessly about your recent accomplishments: “…but work is great. I’m working on this new project. I’ve also taken up yoga classes on the side and am planning to travel next fall.” Champion everything you have done, even if you haven’t yet found the right person for you. They may quickly disengage when they discover you’re not sharing any dirt about your love life; but think of it as mission accomplished.

Surviving Yourself
If last year you were the Grinch from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, this year it’s time you dive into the true spirit of the holidays. It’s supposed to be a wonderful time of year for everyone, singles and couples alike.

Don’t treat being single as a misfortune. Don’t buy into the pressure of your family. Don’t expect that someone or something will come along to turn your wishes into reality.

Be honest with yourself: We all know that you can be your own worst critic. Save the judgment and channel your emotional energy toward something positive. Acknowledge your personal value, your accomplishments, and the friends and family you love and who love you in return.

Inner turmoil plagues even the strongest of us. Be conscious of your emotions, even if they’re feelings of sadness or disappointment, but don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed with negativity. You will only invite misery if you alienate the positive.

Be good to yourself: You’ve been told countless times yet you still find ways to justify why you shouldn’t spoil yourself. However, there are two times of year (at the absolute minimum) where this rationale is exempt – the holidays and your birthday.

So go ahead, schedule a spa day. Have a great workout. Plan a dinner date for one involving filet mignon and a decadent chocolate dessert. Spend a night on the town with your most fun-loving friends. Indulge in your favorite holiday comfort food. Don’t underestimate the power of a little self-gratification. It could be the best gift you get this season.

So, to recap on how to be your best, merry self this holiday season: Level your expectations, get in tune with your self and embrace your singlehood. If you make these commitments, you might just find yourself in a pleasant disposition, along with refreshed hopes for the New Year.