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Tips for Managing (and Enjoying) the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us (in case you hadn’t noticed).  While the holidays can be exciting, memorable, and fun, they also can be a challenging time navigating family members, finances, overwhelm, depression, and/or loved ones lost over the years, to name a few. 
I thought I would pass along some holiday tips and tools to help make the holidays enjoyable and more manageable.


  • Review last year’s holiday season – what part of the holidays did you most enjoy versus what created most stress and strain.  Listening to yourself in this manner can help you plan for this year regarding where to put your energy, where to cut back, and what to eliminate altogether.
  • Cut corners – for example, if you just don’t feel up to doing holiday cards, consider creating a family newsletter rather than handwritten cards, or sending Happy New Year correspondence if you’ll be more up to it in January.
  • Cut out unnecessary activities – consider what can be skipped this year altogether.



  • Try not to compare yourself to other people/ other families – we are bound to be disappointed if we compare ourselves with others we assume to ‘have it altogether’ or the perfect family moments portrayed in holiday movies.
  • Review of last year (again) – consider how much togetherness is too much, and then plan accordingly in terms of what invites you accept, decline, or alter by way of time frame.  This way, everyone can have an enjoyable time without it going ‘overboard’.  If your kids split households, consider their preferences for how they’d like the holidays to be as well.
  • Pre-plan – sometimes it’s helpful to set limits by broaching difficult subjects with people in advance, to help reduce anxiety about spending time together.
  • Reasonable expectations – this goes for everything!  Consider visiting relatives every other year rather than trying to fit everyone in for what may turn out to be an unrestful holiday season for everyone.


  • Allow yourself your feelings – the holidays can be painful, what with all the cozy Hallmark commercials portraying the perfect families and romantic relationships.  Many also struggle with sadness as loved ones who have passed away are not here to be with us this holiday season.  Work to accept your feelings, recognize them as temporary, find ways to bring yourself comfort, and reach out to others for support.
  • Challenge your self talk – when your thoughts are bringing you down, remind yourself of things to be thankful for.  When we judge our “inner world” (thoughts, feelings, insecurities) on what others’ “outer world” looks like, we’re bound to be disappointed.  We can all tend to think that everyone else is so much happier than we are, but that is rarely the case.
  • Get connected – at any given time, someone else is feeling the exact same way we are.  Find a way to reach out.  Volunteer, coordinate a holiday gathering, join an online group, or strike up a conversation with someone new.
  • Talk to a professional – getting some professional support can be helpful for talking through your worries/ stressors, and helping to find some manageable solutions.  Please also consider that if you’re often depressed during the Winter months, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can be treated and alleviated with the help of a psychotherapist or doctor.
  • Gift recipient list – make a list of everyone you would like to/need to buy a gift for.  Write down some ideas of what you might like to get that person.  Soliciting ‘wish list’ items from that person can also be helpful.
  • Set a budget – overall budget and per person budget.  Sometimes it is helpful to communicate with people you exchange to agree on a budget so there are no surprises or hard feelings.   Be realistic about what you can and want to spend.
  • Cross some off your list – if money and/or time are a concern, consider whether anyone on your gift list might be someone to engage in conversation about not exchanging gifts this year.
  • Shop early in the season and off hours – stores tend to be packed on the weekends and the closer you get to the end of December.
  • Take shopping short cuts – consider shopping online, giving subscriptions to favorite magazines, using a personal shopper, paying your teen to shop for you, or tackling several gift list items at a larger store rather than going to numerous specialty stores.
  • Make it a family affair – bring the family, split up in pairs to tackle shopping for each other, trade off, then reconvene for a meal out.
  • Buy gifts year round – if you shop throughout the year when you find something nice that’s on sale, it can help create a ‘gift closet’ for you to draw from for birthdays and holidays.  Find a nice gift on sale?  Buy two or three, as they may be nice for several on your list.