The holiday season is upon us. Although, someone should tell Target, because I was just there and they are not ready! This time of year means so many different things to so many people. For some of us, when November 1 rolls around we pull out our holiday decorations, put on the holiday Christmas music and start all sorts of preparations. Some of us may have really good feelings about this time of year and some of those feelings may be connected to memories that make us feel warm and loved.

Some of us don’t have quite the same toasty experience at the holidays. When November 1 rolls in for some people, they start to think about how lonely they are because they haven’t been able to connect to that special someone. For others, their mood shifts because the holidays were filled with disappointment, abuse and addiction. And still for others, they have made the difficult choice to part ways with their families because of ongoing toxicity and they are faced with the loneliness of being without family.

If you are one of the individuals that can’t stand the Hallmark channel and sort of vomits when they eat a stocking shaped cookie, I’d like you to know that I see you. It is really rough to be the Debbie Downer when it seems like the whole world is aflame with visions of sugarplums. There’s no way to really make this pain any easier, but what I’ve discovered is that you can have pain and still have space for joy too. So, I’d like to suggest some ways you might find joy, love, kindness, silliness, playfulness and maybe even connection.

You won’t find your generic coping strategies here. I know you’ve tried all of these. These are the out of the box get out of the holiday pity parts suggestions for those of us who are officially tired of ourselves.

1 – Revisit the good times. If your belief about yourself is that life is unfair to you and that you are broken in some way, find a memory, or several memories when you were whole. Find an item or a photo that reminds you of yourself at that time. Find those memories and relive them (the same way you do all the hard memories) in your imagination. Let them wash over you and through you until you’re laughing, smiling and feelin fine like you did when it happened.

2 – Take an interpersonal risk. This may not be a popular suggestion, because it could lead to more pain, but I still think it’s a good one. What I am suggesting by suggesting that you take a risk is that the risk you take is a people risk (that’s a lot of times to say risk). Make that connection with a coworker that has that dark sense of humor that you secretly love. Start up the conversation with the dog mom at the park that has the most adorable pup. Answer the Trader Joe’s employee when they start a conversation with a question in the checkout line. They must get trained in conversation starting questions, cause they’re so thought provoking! This kind of risk has an immediate benefit. Our nervous systems respond to connection in really positive ways and creating novelty and positivity in your body is good for the slumps. What if you made a friend? What a bonus gain that would be to this risk taking!

3 – Get in a good goddamned laugh. I’m not talking about a chuckle that you might experience from a meme someone shared with you. I’m talking about the big belly laugh you can get only with a dear friend who knows all your secrets and is here for your annoying laugh or from watching your favorite episode of What We Do In the Shadows. This strategy might help you to trick your body into believing there is still some joy in the world.

4 – Play something fun. Play and joy are the antidotes to sadness and depression. Get out of the slumps by playing something. Anything. I am never, ever unhappy when I go out to play trivia. As a matter of fact, playing trivia is such an in the moment thing that none of my neurosis surface for several hours. I haven’t tried this game yet, but Brene Brown swears by Pickle Ball, and she knows everything. Again, how can you be simmering in your stew of unhappiness when all your mental and physical energy is focused on that ball and kicking your opponent’s ass? Play chess and engage the part of your brain that strategizes. Play Tennis. Play cards. Play Dungeons and Dragons. Do you notice the trick in this suggestion? All these games also involve other people. Don’t play Candy Crush. Candy Crush can serve a purpose, although I’m not sure what that might be. Candy Crush is a solo game. Play a game with other people. Connection above all else will elevate us.

5 – Get your adrenaline flowing. Man, there is not much better than the feeling you get from stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something risky. Honesty, the rush of doing something like ziplining or paddling in rapids or riding a gravity defying roller coaster creates such a sensation in your body that there’s no space for the dulls. And although you can’t keep this feeling through the whole holiday season, pendulating from some really hard feelings to some really juicy feelings will ease you. The nervous system responds to a pendulation from one intensity to another – so much so that it’s even a trauma strategy to help people recover from the loop of the hard memories and feelings.

6 – Have a spiritual experience. This requires an asterisk – not necessarily a religious experience. I have had spiritual experiences listening to a powerful piece of music. I have had spiritual experiences in Shavasana at the end of a yoga class. I have had spiritual experiences on a solo hike. I have had spiritual experiences in the Pacific in Hawaii. I have also had spiritual experiences in deep conversation with a cherished person. It doesn’t matter where or with whom, but seek out the things that defy explanation. Seek out a thing that when you remember it will instantly clear the spaces of your heart, mind and soul that are grieved.

Mostly my encouragement is that you try something radically different. You’ve got one chance at this life. Whatever Hallmark, Disney, Walmart and Amazon have sold us on how the holidays should look doesn’t matter a rat’s butt. What matters is that you find a way in this very moment to make the most of what you’ve got. Be smart. Be bold and think critically about yourself and everything that feels like it “should.” You are the architect of your life. Go create something awesomely unique.