A Different Kind of Holiday Season

Well, here we are. The holiday season is upon us, and COVID rages on. We certainly aren’t where we hoped we would be at this point in the pandemic – to say the least.

Typically, this time of year is one of a lot of excitement and anticipation, but it’s also tough on a lot of us. Grief, overwhelming busyness, unrealistic expectations, family strife, financial strain – there are just so many reasons why the end of the year is tough on many Americans’ mental health. I’m wondering if this year might be a little different.

Of course, all of the above struggles (and more) are very real, but I’m wondering if the slower pace of life over the next few weeks will be a relief to some? Will taking a break from holiday parties, family get-togethers, and other holiday-related obligations help us experience the holidays in a different way? Will the forced slow-down of life make us more aware of the things that are really important to us, and more willing to let go of the things that aren’t?

This will likely (hopefully!!!) be the only holiday season in our lifetimes like this. Experts are indicating that by Thanksgiving/Holidays 2021, life will look closer to “normal.” Let’s hope so! But in the meantime, what can we learn from the quietness of this season?

Saying “No” To Holiday Stress

Is Thanksgiving really less than a week away? If the thought sends a little bit of panic through your system like it does mine, you might find these tips useful.  My favorite? “Practice Saying No.”  As in:

No, I’m not going to try to out-do all the other moms when it comes to teacher gifts.

No, I appreciate the invitations, but I won’t be attending every holiday event.

No, I’m not going to participate in the rampant consumerism and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-ism that often plagues the holidays

Oh and another thing: This lady’s stress would be a whole lot less if she ditched the heels. Check it out:

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The Holiday Blues in September?

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I don’t know how the weather is in your neck of the woods (Hello, Al Roker!), but around here it’s still hot, hot, hot!  We’re still in tank tops and flip flops, just dreaming of cooler days when we can snuggle up in our hoodies.

Meanwhile, the strangest thing is happening: the “Holiday Blues” are beginning to take hold.  By holiday blues I mean the low mood and high anxiety that often accompanies the end of the year.

There are many reasons for the holiday blues:

  • family pressure/drama/stress
  • loss (of a loved one or a job, for example)
  • overwhelming pressure to live the life portrayed on Pinterest
  • decreasing amounts of sunlight
  • bad memories or trauma in holidays past
  • annoyance at the length in magnitude of the holiday season (September through January, really?)

Whatever the reason, mid-September can mark the start of a downward slide for many of us.  Stay tuned for signs and symptoms that the holiday blues may be sneaking up on you.

Cyber Monday: Good for Mental Health?

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Shopping is one of those tricky things that can be both good and bad for mental health.  On the one hand, shopping can be a fun distraction and excursion with friends.  It can also be relaxing when done alone, when you can spend 20 minutes perusing purple necklaces if that’s what you want to do – and with no one bugging you to move on to Cinnabon.

The downside, of course can be that when done to excess, shopping can quickly become out of control and wreak havoc on finances.  This time of year can be particularly treacherous when there are so many SALES and DEALS and SAVINGS!  It’s tough to resist all these “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities to save (and spend) money.

With all the pros and cons of shopping in mind, I have decided to do something new this year: make all of my holiday purchases on-line.  I have decided to test the theory that on-line shopping will be better for my mental health than mall shopping.  Here are the few of the reasons I think this hypothesis is true:

  • As I get older I have less patience for crowds and loud noises – both of which are abundant in malls and shopping centers
  • When I shop in a brick and mortar store I am super-susceptible to buying things a) I don’t need b) the people I’m buying gifts for don’t want (how many Bath and Body Works products do any of us really need, anyway? ugh)
  • I love seeing packages waiting at my front door – silly, but true
  • Shopping on-line allows me to be a lot more clever and creative than I am in real life.  Google “great gifts for 10 year old boys” and you have more cool, educational AND fun gift ideas than you will ever need

I was recently contacted by Pearl & Clasp about taking a look at some of their earrings.  It was meant to be.  My online shopping experiment ready to go, together with my LOVE LOVE LOVE for jewelry – we made a perfect pair!

Here’s what arrived on my doorstep (it’s looking good already!):

9mm Button Pink Freshwater earrings Pearl & Clasp

9mm Button Pink Freshwater earrings
Pearl & Clasp

Darling little (but not-too-little), pink pearl earrings.  They are very sweet and would work for an adult or a young girl – not that I will be giving mine away.  This online shopping stuff is definitely improving my mental health so far!

Want to do a little shopping of your own? Check out Pearl & Clasp’s holiday deals.


Stop Holiday Stress Before It Starts

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Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and my neighbors have already put up their Christmas lights…must be time to start talking about holiday stress!  In an effort to help all of us manage the expectations, pitfalls and joys of this year in an effective way, I am going to offer up a bunch of posts over the next 6 weeks on how to cope with holiday stress.  Here’s my first tip:

Start planning for Christmas now.

No, you don’t have to start playing Christmas carols, but coming up with an idea of what and when you might get things done is a great idea.  By my count there are 7 weekends between now and Christmas (and one of those is Thanksgiving weekend) which means we have plenty of time to do things like:

  • decorate
  • shop
  • bake
  • volunteer
  • go to parties
  • host a party
  • wrap gifts
  • send cards
  • make plans to get out of town
  • whatever else is part of your holiday tradition

So pull out your calendar and see what you can get scheduled.  You will thank yourself in a month!



Keeping It Real at Christmas

I recently received a Christmas card with the following note:

After reading your last blog entry I couldn’t resist sending you a copy of our Christmas card.  It is a far cry from Martha Stewart, but it should give you a good laugh.

Here it is:

Christmas Card

Seriously, how darling is that family?

Here’s the real-life, not-perfect, but super-cute story behind the photo:

We decided that our Christmas card needed some explanation this year:  
Let’s just say there were hopes and dreams of the “perfect family photo” for this card.  

About 10 minutes into our photo secession, son #1 found a section of perfectly flat, bright green, artificial turf.  

Naturally, he decided to run onto the grass…only to find that it was not.  

Imagine his surprise as the carpet of pond scum parted as he fell face first into the water.
This photo was candidly taken right after pulling him out.  

It describes life with 3 children perfectly!

 Merry Christmas!

Thanks so much for sharing, Mandy! Your Christmas card certainly shows us that real and honest – along with it’s accompanying scum – makes for the most memorable (and sincere) holiday greetings!

Why I Hate the Holidays (Hint: It’s the Most Stress-filled Time of the Year)

no turkey

Sorry to be a downer, but I find the holiday season to be the most stressful and unpleasant time of the year.  Each year at this time, I find myself daydreaming of far away beaches, mountains, deserts, plains – anywhere that would provide an escape from the stressors of the holidays at home.

Many folks have very good reason to find the holiday season difficult: the death of a loved one, the break-up of a marriage, the loss of a job.  These painful events can make the holidays excruciating for people, and I don’t want to discount the real-ness of their pain.  But their are also other – albeit less tragic – aspects of the holidays that can make them a struggle for people as well.

Our families don’t change.  Very few of us have “perfect” families.  Awkward blended families, alcoholic uncles, inappropriate in-laws – we all have at least one family member that drives us crazy – or worse.  But for some reason, many of us expect that our families will be magically transformed after Halloween and become the happy, smiling, super-functional families we see on cookie tins and Christmas cards.  Well, hope all you want folks but the family you started the year with is the same one you’re stuck with now – maybe even worse.

There’s only one Martha Stewart.  Ms. Stewart started a wave of domestic arts that seems to be reaching a fever pitch with the growing use of Pinterest, Etsy and similar sites.  I have to admit, I do love crafts and all things Martha, but the pressure to look perfect while serving the perfect meal in the perfect house while your perfect children are doing a perfect craft is overwhelming, and quite frankly impossible to achieve.  There’s is only one Martha Stewart people – and you are not her.

A lot of traditions are dumb.  <—– OK, that wasn’t a very mature sentence, but it’s true.  Roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving because it’s “tradition?”  Ick.  I can be just as thankful (and a whole lot more gastronomically satisfied) with a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs.  So why do I stress out about making a bird every year? Beats me.  Sure, there are a few, very meaningful traditions in my family which I love – but what I would really love is to ditch the dumb ones that drag me down and make the holidays drudgery.

They’re so darn long.  Why, oh why do we need to start celebrating one holiday after another with no break whatsoever starting on October 15th?  Seriously, two and a half months of anything will get old.  And the holidays are no different.  The retail chains and box stores may be a lost cause when it comes to shortening the holiday season, but at least I can resist celebrating Christmas until at least December.  Better yet, December 24th.

Bah humbug.

Click here for more tips for managing holiday stress.

Click here for more about why the holidays are tough.

Click here for more about surviving the holidays with flair.




The Holiday Season & Mental Health Emergencies

As I noted in my last post, the holidays can be tough.  For some of us it can be a season of financial stress, sugar-cookie and waistline anxiety, and family annoyances.  For others of us, this season can be a time of very serious depression.

I was recently in San Francisco and took this picture:

I had never seen anything like it before – a sign for crisis counseling?!? I immediately saw the reason (notice the Golden Gate Bridge in the background), but also started to wonder what it would be like if there were such services available everywhere.  What would the world be like if we were never more than a mile or two from someone who could really help?  A better, less lonely, less isolated world I say.  One where I would like to be.

If you, or someone you know could use an ear this time of year, here are a few places where you can find someone to talk to:

American Psychological Association, Psychologist Locator

The Trevor Lifeline (Specializing in LGBTQ Youth) 866-488-7386

Kristin Brooks Hope Center 800-442-HOPE

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 800-273-8255


If you are a business owner or school leader, consider posting a sign with the above information for those in need this holiday season – and all year ’round!