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Holiday Survival Guide

shutterstock_26490736If you’re one of the many people who goes into a downward spiral during the holiday season (or if you love someone who does), this one’s for you.

1)  Identify what’s happening internally.

Symptoms often start in your body (for example, you’re exhausted because you’re getting depressed, or your stomach bothers you because of anxiety.)  You might not even recognize these physical symptoms are manifestations of something emotional, but that’s often the way it begins.

2)  Once you’ve noticed the changes, ask yourself what they could mean.

Think what feelings you’re trying to suppress or ignore, in the hopes that they’ll go away.  And think what you’re trying to avoid.  It could be family drama; it could be your sense of responsibility toward others; it could be the high expectations you have for yourself.

Your symptoms want to bring something to your attention.  Consider what it could be.

3)  Be kind to yourself and to others.

Often, stress makes us irritable and that makes us less kind to those around us.  But then we feel guilty afterwards, and the shame spiral only intensifies the symptoms.  So if you know you’re irritable, limit your contact with others, or tell them ahead of time that that’s how you’re feeling so they can brace themselves and/or depersonalize.

Kindness is not just a feeling; it’s a practice.  It’s a muscle that gets stronger the more you use it.

Talk to yourself in your head the way the sweetest, most loving person you know would talk to you. Try to see yourself through their eyes.  Because cruelty doesn’t motivate anyone to be their best.

4)  Be proactive and take your symptoms into account.

That might mean skipping a family function that every year brings you nothing but grief.  Or it could mean leaving early (pretend you have another engagement, or actually plan one.)  Enlisting other people’s support could make it easier.  Also once you tell other people, you’re more likely to follow through.

As I mentioned, your symptoms are trying to tell you something.  They’re giving you an incentive to make changes: if you want them to go away, you have to do something differently.  You might be used to dreading the holidays so you don’t even consider the possibility you could be happy this year.  Leave room for good things to happen.

Holiday stress image available from Shutterstock.

Holiday Survival Guide

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2014). Holiday Survival Guide. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Dec 2014
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