Holiday Survival

As Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season, it’s important to remember this isn’t the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. For some of us, this year will be especially difficult.

From my family to yours, here are some holiday survival tips:

1. Remember, it should be the thought that counts. Today is my son’s birthday. He asked for candy and a small gift card. You don’t need to rack up credit card debt to put gifts under your tree. Set money limits with your loved ones. Draw names. My family does a cool gift exchange. $10 max for the gift. It’s a lot of fun to watch the stealing and everyone ending up with something they like or don’t. It’s not about the presents.

2. Make memories. Last night my daughter said, “I hope we can drive around to look at lights again this year.” Cheap or free fun. Cookie decorating. Movie marathons. Start new traditions. Be creative. Dollar stores are great resources as are craft stores with big coupons.

3. Give to others. If you can spare any time or money, brighten someone else’s holiday. Yesterday, I made a Thanksgiving meal for my neighbor who was alone. I picked up a meal donated from a local charity and just put in the time. He was extremely grateful.

4. Take time for you. Take breaks from the hustle and bustle. Take that bath. Read that book you’ve been putting off. Have a sip of your favorite liquidy goodness. Breathe. A lot.

5. Plan ahead. Shop a little per pay period. Budget your gifts. If you need to sign up your family to get Christmas help, do it early. Wrap a few presents at a time. Bite off small chunks to avoid burnout and stress. Take off some mental health time from work if you can or use vacation time if you have some left.

We all get overwhelmed during this time of the year. If you feel like you are drowning, you must ask for help. There is no shame in doing so. You would want your loved one to reach out to you, right? 

Here are some signs you may be headed for trouble:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling irritable or angry
  • Feelings of exhaustion and fatigue
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Lack of pleasure in normal activities
  • Losing interest in activities that you normally enjoy
  • Sleeping much more or much less than normal
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Withdrawing from friends and family


If the stress gets to be too much, and if you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

Millions of people get the holiday blues. From a mental health perspective, the advice I try to give and take is, “Fake it until you Make it.” Put your best smile forward. It’s okay to cry. Visit there. Just don’t live there. We are all in this together. Choose kindness. Choose empathy. Choose love.

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