Holiday Survival Guide

Welcome to the first edition of CBTDenver’s monthly blog! Each month, you will find information and advice on topics we feel are relevant to our practice and our clients. Sometimes we will muse on recent research findings on Cognitive Behavior Therapy or mental health issues and other times discuss current events.

Surviving the Holiday Season

This month we are talking about holiday season survival. The holiday season is a double-edged sword for most people. There is fun, lights, food, friends and family, tidings and joy AND stress, crowded calendars, pressure to be “in the holiday spirit,” difficult family gatherings, and too much food. The “holiday blues,” as they are sometimes called, are different than clinical depression. Symptoms of the holiday blues can include the following:

  • feeling stressed
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • overeating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • increased interpersonal conflict

These symptoms tend to abate within a few days and don’t interfere markedly with one’s ability to function.

A clinical depression refers to a period of time of 2-weeks or longer when a person feels down or sad and has at least 4 other symptoms (lack of enjoyment of activities, sleep difficulties, over or undereating, concentration difficulties, guilt or feelings of worthlessness) that significantly interfere with their ability to work or their relationships. If you think you may be depressed, Cognitive Behavior Therapy is an effective treatment. For more information, please visit our website at

Reduce Holiday Stress

If you are worried about managing the upcoming holidays, here are some tips to reduce holiday stress and enjoy the season:

  1. Don’t over commit. Pick and choose what events you want to attend and what traditions you want to uphold. You don’t have to do it all every year. Say yes only to the parties you really want to attend. Do the things you care about and let go of the rest.
  1. Don’t overspend. Gift giving does not have to be extravagant to be meaningful. A card, book, bouquet of flowers, or plate of homemade treats is a thoughtful way to acknowledge someone important to you. Pay attention to that narrative in your mind that tells you gifts must cost a lot to be worthwhile. Our thoughts are not always looking out for us. If you are not sure what to get someone, ask him or her what he or she wants. Make gifts meaningful, not expensive.
  1. Get out in the sunshine. Those of us that live in Denver are lucky – we have sunny days even in the dead of winter. A short walk (even on a chilly day) can boost spirits and doesn’t have to take a long time. Just head once around the block or sit on your front steps for 15 minutes.
  1. Be kind to yourself and others. Take the pressure off yourself to have a “perfect holiday.” Do your best to disengage from family drama and focus on being together and appreciating what you have.
  1. Exercise. Just because you may be going away or hosting a gathering or rushing to buy gifts doesn’t mean you should skip the basics. Exercise will boost your mood and reduce your stress. If you’re around family (which has it’s pros and cons), going for a run or doing some yoga alone in your room can be a welcome break to relax and center yourself. If you only have a few minutes, just walk around the block once.
  1. Stick to a healthy eating plan. It’s not fun to start a new year with 10 extra pounds of holiday weight. Just because there are cookies in the office doesn’t mean you have to eat 10 of them. Enjoy holiday treats in moderation. When you are at parties, fill your plate with mostly veggies and fruit and skip the sweets. If you are going to an event, plan ahead so that you can stick with a healthy eating plan.
  1. Do something extra special for yourself or reaching out more often than you normally would to friends and supports. The holidays can make us feel exquisitely lonely. Grief and loss or relationship conflict can become highlighted around this time of year. Try to observe these feelings and give yourself some extra support.
  1. Remind yourself of the true meaning of these holidays. Holidays, whether you are religious or not, are a time to be with the people you care about and to appreciate them. They are a time to eat special foods and enjoy special traditions. Be present to take advantage of the moments.
  1. Engage mindfully. Try peeling an orange and paying attention to the feel, smell, and taste. If you’re in a crowded mall or stuck in traffic, pay mindful attention to the faces around you, the road, and the sounds. Play soothing music or books on tape when you’re stuck in traffic in the snow.
  1. Allow yourself time to recalibrate. Big holiday celebrations can take a lot of energy. There is often a lot of preparation and there can be a let down after the frenzy is over. If you can allow yourself a day off before returning to work, do so. If you’re not traveling but are home with kids, allow some down time after the big events. The whole family will appreciate the down time.

And most importantly…….breathe!

Happy Holidays to all our clients and colleagues.

If you’re looking for expert and compassionate therapists in the Denver, Colorado, area, please contact CBT Denver online or call our office at 303-355-5133 to schedule your appointment.