Scarlet Meyer
December 20, 2015 6:20 am

As a family centric girl, I’ve always lived for the holidays. Every year I’m permanently jazzed November through January because I know I’m going to have countless excuses to go home, eat delicious food, and hang out with people that I love. But as I’ve gotten out of college and started to enter into the real world work force, I’ve started to realize that people who are paying you to work aren’t necessarily excited for you to run and take off for the holidays. In fact, a lot of times I’ve found myself working up until the last possible moment, and barely being able to leave in time. And I’m one of the lucky ones. Countless people are forced to work over holidays and spend time away from their families because of a job. So how do you cope when you’re stuck working the holidays? Here is what I’ve learned:

Remember: You’re not alone

When I first entered the work force I always assumed that getting time off for holidays was a given. What I now know is that it isn’t always the case. A lot of companies will want you to work the day before or even on the holiday you’ve been looking forward to. I can remember being so surprised at my first job that they wanted me to work on New Year’s Eve, and the only reason I had New Year’s Day off was because it was a Saturday. Unfortunately, this is a reality of being a working adult. Just remember, even if it feels like you’re the only one in the world working on a holiday, you’re so not.

Try to work nostalgia into your workday.

You might have to work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate. Treating yourself to a candy cane, or a nice hot chocolate is an easy way to feel like you’re celebrating—at least in some small way. Listening to your favorite holiday songs at your desk (with headphones, or else your coworkers might get a little aggressive), decorating your cubicle, or even bringing in holiday treats for your coworkers will help you feel in the spirit when you’re on the clock. It seems silly, but it will feel a whole lot better than pretending there isn’t a holiday happening at all.

Take care of your work family.

Even though you might be busy missing your family and friends, it’s important to not forget about your work family and friends. It’s easy to feel very ‘every man for themselves’ about holiday plans, but remember to be kind to your coworkers and be there if they need it. The holidays can unfortunately be a stressful and sometimes sad time in adult land, so make sure that everyone, down to the grumpiest Scrooge, knows that you care. One of my happiest holiday memories happened right before Thanksgiving last year. We had to work really late, and everyone was in danger of missing our respective trains home. I could have easily driven off to my place, but I instead dropped a coworker who needed a ride off first. Even though it slowed my schedule down a bit, it made me feel so much better to continue with my holiday knowing that she was covered, and not struggling to make her plans happen. Caring for those around is you is kind of what the holidays are all about.

Use social media to keep in touch.

Maybe you can’t be there for all the holiday prep, but you can send your mom goofy holiday selfies from your desk, plan what dishes everyone is bringing on Facebook, or check out everyone’s holiday decorations on Instagram. Social media has made it easier than ever to keep everyone in the loop, so use it to your advantage. You might not be hanging out with your family yet, but joking around and planning with them in your downtime will make you feel more connected and less far away.

Remember that your family and friends understand.

One of my hardest lessons from last year was realizing that I put the most pressure on myself to be present for the holidays. I was supposed to be leaving the night before Thanksgiving to go home to Connecticut, but my boss needed me to stay late. By 9 pm, it was pretty apparent I wasn’t going to be able to make a train that night. I was so sad, and started to tear up a bit. I was going to have to take a train the next day on Thanksgiving morning. I quickly called my mom to tell her I couldn’t make it. To my surprise she told me it was okay, and she’d see me tomorrow morning. In that moment I realized that even though it sucks when work keeps you away from your family during the holidays, your family and friends understand. They’ve been there too. They know you rather be home with them, and they won’t take it personally if you really can’t get out of work.

Stand up for yourself.

The final and hardest lesson is to advocate for yourself and your own schedule. There is a certain amount of work stress and commitment that cannot be avoided during the holidays, however it’s important to know when to say when. Is everyone staying late because you guys need to be working, or is everyone afraid to be the first one to leave? Do you really need to stick around for the holiday office party, or do you want to get home and start your own holiday? Determining your own boundaries is incredibly important, and is truly the greatest gift you can give yourself. Yeah, it can be scary to be the first one to leave work on a holiday, but once you do, you’re free to start celebrating.

(Image via New Line Cinema)

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