How to survive and thrive during the holidays

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Recently I came across a meme that said people who put their holiday decorations up early are happier. My skeptical self-thought was, Is this some ploy to get me to put up holiday decorations sooner? How much sooner? This year it felt like Christmas decorations were out even before Halloween. This time of year can be filled with so much joy and excitement but it also can be hectic and stressful. Between decorating, sending holiday cards, buying gifts, and holiday parties, we can easily get run down. While taking care of everyone else it can be easy to forget that it is equally important that we as parents remember to take care of ourselves, physically and emotionally. With a little thought, planning, and these tips, you can ensure it truly is the most wonderful time of the year for you and all those around you. 


When life gets hectic and busy, usually the first thing to go downhill is my eating habits, especially around the holidays. It feels like there are holiday cocktails and chocolate at every turn. Making good and healthful food choices can help improve how you feel physically and emotionally. A regular exercise routine is also important. Not only does exercise reduce stress and improve your mood, but it also gives you more energy to get through that long to-do list. Make sure to carve out time to exercise, make it a priority, and schedule it just like you would any other event. Even if you don’t have time for a full workout, go for a 10-minute walk or do some stretching exercises rather than skipping your workout altogether. Sleep is also an important part of self-care. Not getting enough sleep can lead to higher levels of stress, anxiety, and irritability.


Last year I ended up having an unexpected surgery and hospital stay and luckily made it home in time for the holidays with my family. This is not something I recommend, but it was an unexpected, forced break, which caused me to prioritize what “really” needed to get done. Around the holidays it can feel as if we have more to do and even less time to do it all. For me, making a list of everything I have to do is the best way to feel organized. This way I try to accomplish a few things each day. 

It can also be helpful to look at the list and see if there are things that can be delayed until after the holidays or even delegated. Don’t be afraid to ask for help so you can have more time to enjoy with your family. Also, choose your activities wisely. Ask yourself and your family what traditions or events are important to them and if you didn’t do those things would it be regretted later. As parents, sometimes we run around trying to create so much “magic” for our kids and it turns out often the simple things are what they appreciate the most. 


Helping others and giving back especially around the holidays is a wonderful way to remember the true meaning for the season. It can make you feel good by making a positive impact or contribution in your community. There are so many wonderful organizations in our city that need our help every day but especially when the needs are high around the holidays. Some of our family favorites are City Hope and St. Anthony’s. Both are in the Tenderloin and allow for direct meaningful interactions with guests that often leave us feeling as if we have received more than given. We go with intentions to bring happiness to someone who may need it but end up leaving with what I like to call the “helper’s high,” that comes from feeling you have made an impact or helped someone. 

Another family tradition is delivering baked goods to the firehouses and police stations around our city. This is a fun and festive way to give thanks to the people who keep us safe every day. 

My hope is that my children will look back on the holidays of their childhood with memories of time spent together and not stressed-out cranky parents. To do this, we need to model what’s most important, which is time spent with family and friends. 

Enjoy the moments and be present for them — there is always something on the list that can get pushed off. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to get it all done that we miss the opportunity to feel grateful for all that we have and joy for those around us. I hope you have a wonderful and peace-filled holiday season. 

Liz Farrell is the mother of three children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive conversations around social media and technology. Comments: [email protected].

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