Facing the winter holidays can be daunting to anyone, especially if you’re exhausted and nearing burn-out. The looming specter of faking holiday cheer is cringeworthy at best, particularly whilst trying to keep the peace if the voices inside your head are anything but peaceful.

I am here to ring the bell of HOPE! You do not have to continue to suffer through the insufferable today. If you are not first for yourself, then you have nothing to give to others. Here’s a look at the top 7 tips for surviving the holidays and maintaining your serenity:

1. YOUR SUPPORT POSSE

Do you have a clawing creature in your heart that causes you to feel isolated when surrounded by others? It’s time to soothe that inner roar, instead of telling it to shut up. Are you going to a party, a family gathering, or a situation where you know you are going to be uncomfortable? Make sure to bring a trusted support person. If it is not okay for you to bring someone with you, you have the right to choose not to attend.

Loneliness and holidays go hand in hand sometimes. In preparation for that possibility, write a list, as a reminder, of who is in your “support posse.” I suggest reaching out to them now to create a mutual support system. Trust me, you’re not the only one.

There are also resources and hotlines in most countries for those suffering from depression, survivors and victims of violence, and people in addiction recovery to call for 24-hour support. Google: “24 hour Hotline” (followed by the issue you have & your location or country). If you do not find one and you are in immediate crisis call your local emergency number.

2. EXIT PLAN

How many times have you felt trapped in a place, because you did not take your own transportation, or devised an exit strategy prior to arrival? It is the worst; let’s not recreate that scenario. You can bestow yourself with peace of mind by knowing ahead of time how you can leave when you need to. This forethought will lessen hypersensitivity to triggers, having a relapse, or acting out in ways you might later regret.

If you decide against taking your own transport, I encourage you to note down local numbers for taxis, have a ride/taxi app on your phone, and always be sure to have cash on hand. You have the right to leave a place where you feel unsafe.

3. HEALTHY ROUTINE

A holiday from work or school does not mean a holiday from who you are. Neglecting your normal routines, the foundation blocks of what makes you whole, can cause disturbances in your equilibrium.

Whatever your normal daily discipline is to keep balanced, continue to maintain that during the holidays. Give yourself and others the opportunity to be known and to know you. Your routine is an intrinsic part of who you are. If you’re uncertain about what that is I suggest taking a few minutes to write down what you do on a daily basis that gives you a sense of balance. A few examples of common daily routines might include: number of meals, types of food, necessary medications, bathing, exercise, prayer or meditation, socializing with your “support posse,” amount of sleep, hobbies, etc.

4. YOU ARE A GIFT

Many agonize over the commodification of holidays. How many stories are there of people suffering emotionally and economically trying to ensure they have gifts for everyone they “should” give to? I want you to know that your presence is a gift! Your willingness to share your time with others, and to allow others to get to know you, is worth more than becoming indebted or depleting emotional reserves.

If you feel compelled to give gifts: consider gifts that you feel good about giving, you could have fun making yourself, or are coupons you create redeemable for time spent together doing fun activities.

5. CREATE YOUR OWN HOLIDAY

Do you feel the holidays are imposed on you, rather than something you choose? Are there certain holiday rituals you have always just forced yourself to do, because “that is the way it is?”

You have permission to use your imagination to design holiday rituals that embody what the holidays really mean to you! This will give you a feeling of belonging, and relating, to the holidays on a more profound level. Often it can feel as if we are tolerating life, rather than creating it. I encourage you to take time to create a ritual this holiday season that has special meaning for you. You will be surprised the impact this can have on your holiday cheer!

6. BE OF SERVICE

Drowning in a swamp of misery, loneliness, alcohol, or food is nowhere we’re going to be this holiday season, ok? Let’s get you out of that abyss!

I have a ritual, like many do, of volunteering during the holidays on crisis phone lines, soup kitchens, or packaging items for those in need. These are only a few of the many ways we can be of service to others. I’m not suggesting you stress over how to give, especially if you are already a humanitarian worker, or exhaust yourself by giving too much to others and not enough to yourself. I’m suggesting you try…try to keep your eyes open for someone who needs help: Call someone to check-in and remind them that they’re not alone; Go with someone to a recovery meeting; Help someone who is struggling in some way. Randomly post sticky notes in public places, on cars, on doors that say kind things, like: I’m grateful you exist! You matter! etc etc etc

It feels good to get outside of ourselves and our problems, even if for a little while, to be given a new perspective.

7. DRESS COMFORTABLY

Sound silly? It is one of the most practical pieces of advice I can give you. I have heard women call high heels “drinking shoes,” due to the “need” for alcohol to anesthetize foot pain and social anxiety. You don’t need social anesthetic today. What you need are comfortable clothes and shoes you can be in for more than 2 hours at a time. During the holidays, my siblings and I celebrate “Pajama World.” It is one of our self-created rituals where we all wear pajamas, watch movies, and spend time together.

Comfort + Fun = A Great Time

I suggest you try the exercise on closet clearing. Afterwards, pick an outfit that is most authentically and comfortably you.

I am happy to support your journey towards wholeness this holiday season. Please Share this with others.

Do you have questions regarding humanitarian staff care? You can contact me here: Ask Amanda or share any questions you may have in the comments section below.

© Amanda Lee