Building Resilience for the Holidays

Posted by: Debbie Grove on December 5, 2011 4:19 pm

The holiday season does not have to be stressful – really, no seriously. I cannot help but wonder if the preconception that this time of the year is just ‘naturally’ stressful begins to set us up for anticipatory angst, worry, and anxiety about yet another ‘stressful’ festive season. I truly believe that we can garner some joy and peace if we are purposeful in how we manage the holidays. In this blog, I share some of my top tips for not only surviving the holidays, but learning to thrive in their midst.


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Being proactive and purposeful about creating a healthy mindset, attitude, and approach to the holidays can help generate a manageable and enjoyable season. Here are some of my top tips:

Remember the Spirit of the Holidays.  As cliché as that might sound, it rings true for many reasons. Think about this time in our calendars as a reminder to pause and reflect about what we are grateful for and how we can show appreciation and gratitude toward others. Reflect about the good things that are happening in your family, communities, schools, workplaces, and around the world. Do something for someone else. Gestures of kindness come in all shapes and sizes – being patient as we wait in lineups, paying it forward by treating a total stranger to a coffee, holding a door open, giving up your seat on the bus for someone else, donating your time and effort to a local non-profit organization. There are countless ways to contribute to the spirit of the season, and, if enough of us contribute, the season will be more enjoyable.

Incorporate Things You Enjoy.  Right about now you might be asking yourself, When will I find the time to do things I enjoy this time of the year? I do not believe it is about ‘time’ at all. Instead, how we manage and prioritize our time, how proactive we are, and what we are willing to let go so that we have time are key considerations. Twenty-four hours in a day are quite a few actually. I think, too, though, another factor that plays a role are individual differences in how people define ‘fun’ for themselves. I know people, myself included, who love their work and find it very enjoyable and rewarding. At the same time, however, allowing our playful spirit to have an outlet for creativity, laughter, social connection, and recreation are important to our overall health and well-being. A fun activity does not have to be some elaborately planned trip away. Rather, try incorporating a bit of enjoyment into every day. Chatting with a friend (why not combine the chat with a walk), calling a loved one, watching a favourite comedy show, reading a magazine article in your favourite coffee shop, or whatever else you enjoy. Pleasurable activities give our endorphins and metabolism a boost!

Take a Moment to Pause. Learning to wind down amidst our busy lives is critical to our health and well-being, and, especially so during times when expectations are elevated. ‘Expectations’ can vary from those we impose on ourselves to perform well, workplace commitments, and planning for travel and/or making arrangements to connect with family over the holidays. It is not uncommon for organizations to be wrestling with year-end fiscal responsibilities, deadlines, inventory, and budgets. Yes, it is definitely a busy time of the year. All the more reason, for those of you who might need a little extra convincing, to incorporate winding down into each day. The neurophysiological benefits of taking a five-minute break to close your eyes, breath deeply, and sit comfortably include slowing down our heart rates and calming an overactive mind. A winding down break is simple, easy to learn, and can be done almost anywhere. Try it!

Learn to Let Go of Perfectionism. Have you ever found yourself trying too hard to make it the perfect holiday for everyone? Striving to fit it all together just right. It can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Lighten the load for yourself! We do have the choice. Ask yourself, Why is this (insert your task/event here) so important to me? Our sociocultural influences are at play too. Sociocultural norms, values, and expectations shape our lives in profound ways. During this time of the year, we are inundated with television commercials, flyers, and home shows inviting us to plan for the perfect holiday season. I tend to see women experiencing extra strain this time of the year as they strive to create a positive holiday experience for their families. When all family members contribute, it helps distribute workload and contribute to healthy family relationships! What and how we chose to celebrate reflects diverse cultures, family configurations, beliefs, and preferred traditions. One size does not fit all!

The views expressed are mine alone and do not reflect the views of the CCPA. Dr. Debbie Grove is a therapist working in Edmonton, Alberta. To learn more about her, visit her web site at

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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