7 Tips to Get Through the Holidays

It’s December.

It’s not my favorite time of the year.

Here in Northeast Ohio, the days are shorter, leaving us in darkness more often. It’s cold. And, of course, there are all the events, parties and “shoulds.”

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus or nothing at all, this time of year presents its challenges. In 2020, I wrote an article with 7 tips to get through 2020’s holiday season. I wrote it because it was 2020, which was a rough year. We were in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic, political divisions ran high, and people’s opinions were running strong and extra loud.

As I reflect on this holiday season, these tips are very much still relevant. For anyone with anxiety disorders or obsessive compulsive disorder, remembering some basics can help keep you grounded. As you make your way through the final weeks of December and into the New Year, keep in mind these 7 tips:

  1. Expect to feel a rollercoaster of emotions — “good vibes only” is nonsense and impossible.
  2. Stop trying to control your thoughts and feelings.
  3. Don’t forget you are responsible for how you respond to the above. 
  4. Start new traditions and ditch expectations. 
  5. Small is good. Change doesn’t have to be seismic.
  6. Give back—in whatever way you can.
  7. Practice compassion for yourself and each other; assume we are all are doing the best we can.

We can’t control the opinions of others. We cannot control how someone is going to act at a holiday gathering or what someone will think of us if we don’t go to a holiday gathering. We can only control our response.

If you’re feeling triggered, take some moments to breathe, relax your body, loosen your grip and decide how you want to respond. Simple but not always easy with families. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes. It’s from the spiritual teacher Ram Dass who said, “If you think you are enlightened, go and spend a week with your family.”

Holidays and families can be both wonderful and difficult. Embrace the messiness with lots of humor and grace. I’ll see you in 2023.