Body Impolitic’s 2021 Guide to Sane(ish) Holidays

lichen fallen into the snow
photo by Vivian Napier, Smithsonian Photo Contest

Laurie and Debbie say:

We’ve been putting up versions of this post since 2006. As we said last year, there is nothing sane about 2020 and 2021 has not been much better. All of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue, pandemic brain, and the uncertainty roller-coaster. Many are experiencing worse. Denying that to ourselves just makes things even rougher.

The suggestions here are (mostly) for folks who are planning to celebrate the upcoming holidays in some way, and are fortunate enough to have people and resources to celebrate with. If that’s not you, skip to the bottom. If that is you, then even if your family are your favorite people and you look forward all year to the holidays, you still may find useful hints here.

We hope most of you are staying home and staying safe. Both of us have traveled recently, for essential reasons and with plans made before the emergence of the Omicron variant, so we know how stressful traveling can be. If you are traveling, or if you are socializing locally, please be as cautious and thoughtful as you can, to protect your own health and that of others.


1 – You have a right to set your own boundaries around COVID protections. That includes telling your family (chosen or blood) you can’t see them if they don’t respect your protocols. It also includes deciding that for your own mental health you need to see your closest people even if you don’t agree with their decisions around COVID. Do what is right for you, and trust your gut.

2 – You have a right to enjoy things in your own way. To the extent possible, do as much or as little holiday stuff as you want; it’s supposed to be a celebration, not an obligation.

3 – If you are spending time with people, try to choose some who know how awesome you are. If you have to be with toxic people, remind yourself three times (out loud) in your last alone moments before seeing them that they are toxic. As soon as you can get away from them, do something really nice for yourself.

4 – Eat what you enjoy. Corollary: don’t eat what you don’t enjoy. Desserts are not sinful, they’re just desserts. Making people feel bad about themselves is sinful. Relatives who push you to eat (or not to eat) may want to be in charge of your choices, but you don’t have to let them take over. If you currently struggle with eating disorders, or have a history with them, we hope this helps.

5 – Wear what you think you look terrific in; if you don’t think you ever look terrific (we disagree) wear something that makes you feel comfortable, with colors or textures you like. Accept compliments and ignore digs about your clothes.

6 – Plan your responses to inevitable comments beforehand. If you have family members who don’t share your politics, you do not have to put up with hateful comments, whether they are racist, anti-science, anti-democratic, or otherwise repulsive. Make a plan in advance: if you want to actively disagree with them, have your facts ready. If you want to cut off the conversation, try “We disagree, and I’m not willing to discuss it here,” or just walk away. Or keep all three in your toolbox and use the one that feels best in the moment. Make a promise to yourself in advance that you’ll engage or not engage as you want. Whatever you do, don’t spend too much energy on those ideas.

7 – Not spending too much energy applies to the the personal digs too. For example, if you know that your sister-in-law is going to tell you, “for your own good,” how you’ve made a bad life decision, practice saying, “I appreciate your concern. Excuse me, I really want to catch up with Uncle Carlos.”

8 – If you enjoy time with kids, they can be a great way to escape from the adult toxicity. If kids drive you crazy, keep your distance when you can, and try to keep your patience otherwise: they didn’t overstimulate themselves with sugar and toys.

9 – Be effusive about every gift you get; then be discreetly rude about the awful ones later to your friends. If they’re really awful, throw them off a bridge in the middle of the night.

10 – If you hate the holidays, or they make you sad, you are not the least bit alone. Participate as little as possible. They’ll be over soon. If you’re wishing you had someone (someone particular or folks in general) to spend the holidays with, treat yourself with special care. If you’re a volunteering type, safe and protected volunteering can work, but so can staying at home and taking a long hot bubble bath.


If you have enough to give to someone who has less, doing that often really helps when you’re feeling attacked. If you know someone who is having a crappy holiday, even — maybe especially — if you are too, consider taking a moment to do something for them (a quick text, a social media hello) that they will enjoy.

If you love and miss your family, this is a hard time to be away from people you care about. Stay in touch by phone and internet, make little rituals with each other to minimize the distance, and look forward to better holidays someday.

If your family is difficult for whatever reason, connect with people who help you feel comfortable, and enjoy the break!

We will see you in January 2022. No one knows what is coming; we will get through it together.

Stay safe and well!


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