Coping with the Holiday Season Overseas

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, right?! ‘Tis the season of joy and big feelings based on years of tradition and focused on gathering with old friends and family to celebrate. Unfortunately, ongoing health concerns, ever-changing rules and restrictions, and the dreaded quarantine are keeping many ex-pats from traveling back to their home countries again this year. Disappointment and unmet expectations can cause anxiety and stress, and what is meant to be a season of coming together and sharing good cheer, can magnify loneliness. It can feel overwhelming, but there are ways to manage or reframe your experiences that may help you from becoming overwhelmed and stressed. 

Why do we stress at Christmas?

You are living in Taiwan and your family is on the other side of the world. We are all experiencing a global pandemic. These are extreme circumstances, but it’s important to remember Christmas and the holiday season, even in the “before times” is usually a very busy, often stressful time for many – arguably most – people. We glorify memories of “how it used to be” and can place unrealistic expectations of what should happen and how people will behave. 

Some of the reasons people get super-stressed at this time of the year include:

  • the need to work a little harder to get things finished before the holidays 
  • The anxiety about getting the perfect gift and getting the Christmas shopping done in time
  • overdoing it with too many activities and social events
  • feeling pressure to celebrate even though you might just want to skip it this year

So What To Do?

Find your Christmas Spirit! Start by thinking about what the season really means to you and those you live with, and make that what your focus will be this year. 

Do you want to make it magical and exciting for the kids? Is it about making others happy? Are family traditions the priority? Do you want to give back to the community? Maybe your family prefers to relax and do things together. Maybe it’s a time to dress up and party. (if you are looking for places to take your family read this article we did on Finding your Christmas spirit in Taipei 2021)

Keep it simple and manageable. Acknowledge that there will be differences from other years, and people who you will really miss, but don’t make the people you miss more important than the people you are with.

#friendsgiving is a thing, so why not try #friendsmas?

If you want to celebrate in a big group, get together with other families and friends who are also away from home. Extend the invitation to other “orphans” who may be solo, even if you don’t know them very well.

Plan a traditional meal featuring your favorite foods, or have a potluck where each guest brings one of their favorite dishes. Several hotels and Western restaurants in Taipei offer take-away catering if you don’t feel like cooking. You can even go local, or add local specialities to the menu – cong you bing 蔥油餅 goes great with smoked salmon!

Each family and each country that celebrates it, has different Christmas traditions. You do not need to recreate

Remember to take time to yourself

As we are overseas this Christmas, many of us tend to fill the holiday with all sorts of activities like camps, seeing christmaslights in the city, visiting with many friends and numerous countless activities. One thing that is crucial to your mental health when coping with christmas overseas, is that you take time to yourself. Remember to relax and enjoy a little time on your own. Therefore, go for a hike or a walk, take the time to sit down and facetime your best friend, or find a quiet space where you can relax,  listen to music, or meditate.

Another good tip is to try to stick to some of you normal daily routines. Eventhough it is holiday, try to keep to the same time to get up and go to bed, eat healthy and nurishing breakfast, lunch and dinner and not overeat of the sweets. The balance could help you in coping with the holiday season overseas.

It is a holiday for the kids too, so try to do an exercise in your family where you individually and as a group set boundaries for how often you should see friends during the holidays and how many activities you should sign up for. It is a great exercise for all ages to check what your mood is up for. Maybe you and your family only need to do activities every second day, so you have time to relax and do the things you like to do at home.

In conclusion

  1. Build a daily routine and stick to it. Your day will be much easier to cope with
  2. Appreciate what you enjoy. Even if it is a special coffee, snuggle up in a blanket, or take a walk on your own. You decide, and you make sure you get enough of the moments you enjoy.
  3. Remember to stay afloat with your social health by seeing the friends you can but remember your own mental health and make time for yourself. 

Talk to your confidant

When you feel the pressure of coping with the holiday season overseas, and 

the emotions of Christmas, talk to your confidant about how you feel.

Need someone to talk to?

If you’re finding it hard to cope, you might like to talk to someone who’s not so close to the situation. Call us at the Center if you are in crisis 0932-594-578 or book a session at counselor@communitycenter.org.tw 

Please feel free to call if you feel overwhelmed.