How to Actually Survive the Holidays

How to Actually Survive the Holidays…and every day

I mean no disrespect to people who find the holidays to be a trying time. I personally know plenty of people who identify the holidays as a stress-filled ball of grief and they know that I love and support them, just as I would support anyone I met who was suffering and struggling through any time of their life. I’m not a total Grinch. If you have suffered a loss or had some traumatic event in your life and you feel that you will have to to white knuckle your way through past New Years, I’m here for you, supporting you, rooting for you.

But I would like to invite you to consider a holiday season that you aren’t praying through gritted teeth to the heavens above that it all be over, finally, so that you can breathe. Mainly because that doesn’t sound like an experience I would enjoy, but also because I know unequivocally that it is not an experience that you ever have to endure.

Let me step back a minute into the summer. Do you all remember the cutesy memes about “how to have a bikini body” that were directed towards women who were battling body image issues? 

Whether you think it’s trite and annoying or full of truth, the point is taken. You have a body, and there’s a bikini. What you interpret in between is coming from you and your insecurities, how much weight (no pun intended) that you are putting on what others think about you. If you’ve always longed to sashay around in that two piece, there’s nothing stopping you but your own fears of judgment from others. If you’re more comfortable in a one piece, or a burkha…that’s fine, too. The point was never the bikini, it was about your experience of life and how insecurity and fear can keep us from actually experiencing it the way we want to.

Still with me? Okay, back to the holidays.

Here’s my foolproof, patent pending, meme-worthy plan to survive the holidays:

Step 1: You can’t help but notice when November rolls around. The day after Halloween, the ghosts and scary masks come down and the Christmas trees and Channukah decorations come out. I’ve actually heard people discussing that the earlier the decorations come out, the longer they have to suffer through their mental torture, because in their mind, the suffering is coming from the holidays, and retailers seem to be reminding them of the holidays approaching earlier and earlier every year. There are actual articles that advise “skipping shopping trips” where overeager retailers might be decorating too soon, in order to avoid being triggered. I don’t know about your town, but in mine, even the grocery stores are in on bedecking ALL the halls as soon as possible so unless you are able to enroll in grocery delivery, simply avoiding the things that remind you of the holidays is likely not going to be an option.

Step 2: Be alive and conscious throughout them. I know I oversimplified this a bit. Yes, breathing in and out and remaining alive will help you “survive”, but I promise it’s coming from the same love and support as the idea that “putting a bikini on” will help you have a bikini body. The idea that the holidays are stressful isn’t coming from the holidays, no matter what you may believe. I know so many favorite movies show stressed out parents trying to cross of their kids wish list, bickering couples who barely make it through extended family visits, and complete meltdowns of North Pole proportions, but just like with most movies…this is a total exaggeration of something that we have created on our own, in our heads. The holidays do NOT have to be a time to be endured. They don’t have to be stressful. Parents, they don’t have to be perfect. If you enjoy waiting for hours in lines at 3 AM to ensure you get everything on your list, then by all means, head out and join the masses. But if you feel burdened by the thought of trampling people in the name of Black Friday, if providing the perfect toy means you’ll brawl over a toy car, and if the thought of one more dinner with the in-laws makes you want to crawl in a hole, you can fill up your time with all the tips and strategies that Google and your therapist can offer or you can consider that maybe, just maybe, all of that stress, worry, heartache, and sadness is coming from you.

I know it’s not pleasant to think that you might be the cause of your own misery. It’s annoying to think that this might be one more thing that you’re screwing up, one more thing to fix. But the cool thing is that understanding that most of the yucky feelings you deal with are coming from your thoughts about the situations and people you interact with allows you to let those feelings go without having to fix anything. Imagine for a second that your very favorite city in the world is London, but the last time you were there, you had a devastating break up with what you thought was the love of your life, you got sick with pneumonia, and the entire trip was miserable and cold, and you vowed to never go there again. In fact, every time you’ve even thought about it since, you’ve felt that same misery and heartache all over again. Now imagine that your boss is demanding that you go to London for work, and the sadness and and misery you’re facing is enough to have you considering turning in your resignation. That’s crazy, right? We all know that just because you were sad the last time you were there, that doesn’t mean that this time won’t be amazing, or even just okay. The idea that the place would hold some inherent sadness for you is all in your head.

Each year, the general dates on the calendar known as “the holidays” are an entirely new set of days. You’ve never experienced these days before in your life, and they have the opportunity to be anything you can dream up: happy, sad, fulfilling, enchanting, miserable. Rather than just hitting replay on the crappy holiday movie in your head, I invite you to take a look at what you think it means to have a beautiful holiday season. Maybe that means you cut back on your shopping list, or you let go of your need for the perfect dinner party. Maybe you can still do it all knowing that there’s no stress attached to anything you choose. Maybe you change things up and make a conscious effort to be still and know that there is beauty and purpose in every thing.

No matter how you celebrate, we hope that you have a joyful holiday season and a happy new year.


If you or a loved one is  struggling with an addiction this holiday season, our outpatient treatment program allows you to get the help you need without missing those adorable holiday concerts or visits to Santa. Call Reed at 800-556-2966 for more information about our flexible scheduling and give yourself the gift of health for the holidays.