Mental Health Advice: Dr. Darcy Sterling

Dr. Darcy’s Holiday Survival Guide

You’ve made it through Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Congratulations! You’re now officially in the holiday swing. And I’m now officially in my busy season. It’s sad but true. Shrinks have ‘busy seasons.’ Between now and January, I could double my clinical hours if I could clone myself, which I can’t, and so in the spirit of keeping you all grounded, I’m giving you my Holiday Survival Guide—sans appointment.

1) Loved ones want your time, not your anxiety. Your kids, friends and guests want you to be present. They don’t care if the holiday meal is perfect, if the table remains messy until after they leave, or if you tick every item off your to-do list within your self-imposed deadline. They do care if you look so neurotic that you need a benzo to make it through dinner. Lower your expectations. Make your daily goal to be in the present moment, not fretting it away thinking about all the gifts you can’t afford.

2) Schedule some time to take care of yourself. You can’t give what you don’t have. Commit to a workout regime with a friend; don’t skip manicures or massages; soak in a bath and read a book—not because you want to learn anything, but because you want to relax.

3) Obligate yourself with care. If you say “yes” to every invitation you get this season, you’ll have no ability to follow numbers 1 and 2. The New Year brings with it some open space. Schedule some of your socializing for January.

4) Do a grab bag. Stop buying for Aunt Annie and Grandpa Jimmy’s stepson. It’s too much time and money. And most of those gifts go unused anyway.

5) Buck up for a hotel. Don’t shack up with family. It’s too much. You need alone time, decompressing time, and most of all, silence time. You’re welcome in advance.

6) Identify safe topics before you visit family. Test them out with a friend ahead of time.

7) Reflect on holidays gone by, particularly those in which you found yourself knee-deep in miserable discussions. Find a way to avoid those topics this year.

So there you have it! Take care of yourself; be kind to those you love; and be tolerant of those you don’t. The only goal you should have for this holiday season is navigating it with more peace and laughter than you did last year.


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