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7 Tips to Handle Disappointments—Especially during the Holidays

Written by Dr. Markel, December 20, 2019


  • You tell a friend about a diagnosis of cancer and never hear from them
  • You give money to a person you know for years because their practice is in crisis. You don’t expect them to pay it back, but you haven’t heard from her for over a year
  • A grandchild comes to town but doesn’t visit
  • Someone you trust throws you under the bus
  • You are laid off right before a holiday


No one is immune from occasional disappointments from the people they care about. However, how disappointments are handled makes a difference in the short- and long-term impact on work/life productivity and satisfaction. Commonly, holiday hype, sentiments, memories, or unrealistic expectations make us more vulnerable to emotional upheavals


It takes insights and intention to manage disappointments, especially during the holiday season.


How about you? When you experience a disappointment, do you get mad, sad, or weepy? Do you have a way to deal with disappointments without falling into long-term despair or an inability to enjoy other events? Do you make comments such as, “This shouldn’t happen.” “That person doesn’t care.”

“I don’t deserve it.” “I should have done more.” “It’s over, it will never be better.”


Some may advise you to, “Get over it; life’s not fair.” Others may say, “You see, you can’t trust anyone.” The first response involves simply ignoring the experience and moving on. The second response involves an overgeneralization and faulty thinking about the actual experience and its future impact. Neither response provides a sound basis for coping and well-being.


Here are 7 tips to reduce the negative effects of disappointments:


  1. Contain the negative, over-generalized self-talk. For example, “Not only didn’t this person care, they never did and never will. Or, “They said I got laid off because of company changes, but I know I wasn’t good enough. I’ll never get another job as good as that.”
  2. Slowdown from the hectic holiday schedule. Allow some time to experience an emotional reaction and grieve. You may be dealing with shock or disappointment. For example, after a good cry, you may need to actively change your mood-especially if you fall into the all or none perspective (They never cared, I can’t ever count on them versus, they were insensitive.
  3. Engage in reflective thinking and gain perspective. Was the person inconsiderate and insensitive, rather than malicious or nasty? Is the situation unique or part of an ongoing pattern of negative interactions? In a broader view, might the situation be a blessing in disguise?
  4. Decide if, when, and how to react. Should you ignore the incident, blame yourself, blame others, and/or take positive action to respond or prevent similar situations/experiences. For example, if a relative or close friend doesn’t contact you, decide if it was an example of thoughtlessness. If so, then take action. First, clear the air and share your feelings (“I was disappointed that we didn’t see each other on your last visit.”) Next, be proactive (Let’s plan ahead for next visits. Call ahead or let’s connect via Skype or Facetime.
  5. Fight the fatigue factor. Rest provides the mental energy for coping, rather than, purely emotional reactions.
  6. Be gracious and forgiving. Give others the benefit of the doubt. For example, your colleague or friend or family member hurt your feelings. Recognize that people make mistakes. Remember good times, look at photos of better times, and think about mending fences rather than holding grudges. Remember some of the times you were forgiven for some misstep or misunderstanding.
  7. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, music, dancing, and movies. This helps you avoid dwelling on negatives for hours at a time.

To discuss these 7 tips further with Dr. Geri and to gain greater satisfaction, contact her directly at