How about consciously creating a healthy holiday survival strategy for yourself and/or your family this year?

For many people, the holidays elicit a sense of warmth, connection, celebration and joy.  For others, it may be a very difficult time of year based on losses, challenging familial, relationship or social dynamics, eating or drinking challenges at a holidays so focused on food/drink and, especially this year, it can be financially stressful.

What are some the most stressful aspects of the holidays for you/your family this year?  Getting conscious of these factors can be painful, but it’s also the way to identify healthy ways to cope.

Financial Concerns

Are finances a concern this year?  They are for many of us.  If you think about holidays past, how many of your prominent memories involve presents?  Or, do they more comprised of presence?

Most of the hearwarming memories we have are of traditions, people and the warmth that those connections create.  Is it okay to set a budget for gift-giving with friends, colleagues and family?

Would people be willing to focus on the gathering and forego presents this year?

Would a Secret Santa-style gathering make more sense?

Is it possible to take the focus off gifts and make a donation to a common cause?

Allow yourself to honour your budget and financial needs.  This will help to decrease guilt and stress when the bills arrive in January.

Challenging Relationships & Dynamics

If there are challenging relational dynamics involved, give yourself permission to acknowledge this.  Determine what mental, emotional or even physical boundaries need to be implemented to protect and preserve your emotional well-being.

What invitations will you gratefully accept or respectfully decline?

Are there time limits that you would benefit to place on attending certain gatherings?

Do you need to reassess your emotional engagement in certain relationships?

These may be essential and healthy, although challegning, boundaries to create in order to enjoy the holidays feeling joyful, energized and authentic.

At a time of intense polarization and division in our society, social and familial gatherings could get heated.  Learn to observe the hysterical aggression and reactivity, feel its intensity and focus on returning it with consciousness to the person it belongs to.  You can ask yourself, if your mood quickly changes: Is this mine?  If it is, it needs to be processed.  If not, it needs to be returned.

Can you create and hold space for people with differing viewpoints from your own to express and explain their opinions?  This can be very challenging to do, however it’s great modelling to others to demonstrate the importance of providing the opportunity to be heard and could inspire others to do the same.  Remember, when we don’t feel heard, we tend to get louder and more aggressive.  You don’t have to change your mind, and neither to others, but learning to navigate into the nuance is key to de-escalating and managing intense energy around hot topics.

Polarization and division rarely gets solves by approaching it from fixed mindsets.  Change generally comes from the ability to tolerate and titrate opposing positions and being open to learning.  This psychological flexibility is the way to learn, grow, feel heard and allow others to feel heard.  It’s a relationship saver.

Remember, boundaries can seem like they are going to decrease connection, however they tend to enhance relationships when we’re able to show up the most comfortable, least-agitated, version of ourselves.

Food & Drink Issues

Are eating or drinking issues activated during this season?  What do you need to do to take care of your health and well-being?  Is eating healthy beforehand, or bringing a dish that you can enjoy a helpful option?  Working with guilt is another important option.  Can you give yourself permission to savour and enjoy?  Did you know that when you do this, it mitigates the stress response that can increase inflammation?  Do you need to avoid gatherings where alcohol consumption will be rampant?  If so, how about suggesting another gathering or activity where alcohol would not be served?  Allow yourself to nurture a fizzy drink that may be a cocktail decoy if others are pressuring you to drink, or how about making a festive mocktail?


If you are struggling with loss this season, know that this is normal and painful.  Many of us have very fond memories of holidays past, where members of our families, romantic and/or social lives were present.  That may not be the case this year.  It’s important to recognize the sentimentality and nostalgia elicited this season.  Create time and space to mourn and grieve while also allowing space to enjoy.  Lost loved ones would probably want us to feel connected in new ways this season.

© Sunnyside Healing Arts, Inc. 2023

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