How to be Sane During the Holidaze


by Alicia Farrell, PhD   Cognitive Psychologist

Four years-ago we had a paper bag Christmas. It was my husband’s idea cosigned very quickly by my son. Life had been coming at us and we were fried. As my husband grabbed a stack of Pasta Vita bags and a stapler, I shuddered. The presents had to look good. Or so I thought. I went with it. Placed three bags in front of the fireplace as stand-ins for our stockings and used my extra energy to set a beautiful table to welcome family coming for dinner. After years of driving myself crazy and with my husband’s forceful urging, I let go. It was uncomfortable and so worth it!

Here are three tips to help you let go during the holidays:

1. Truly Important: Make a list of what is truly important to you during the holidays. For example, “spend quality time with friends and loved ones”, “give back to my community”, “accumulate no debt”, “balance self-care and social commitments”, “accept good enough”, “create a magical experience for the kids”. Now go back and reorganize the list from most important to least important. Use this prioritized list as a filter to decide how to spend your time, energy and money. Say yes and no, accordingly.

2. Lower Expectations: Often the key to greater life satisfaction is lowering expectations without over-compromising what is most important to you. Check in with your expectations of yourself and for the holidays. Are they unrealistic, perfectionistic, based in fantasy not reality? Are you driven too hard by what others think or what you should do instead of what’s right for you? Think for yourself instead of being caught up in the crowd.

3. Power to Choose: The holidays can be emotionally complicated. It’s not unusual to experience conflict, disappointment, and sadness. Experiencing these emotions can cause us to forget we always have a choice. What you give your energy to gets bigger. Choose wisely.

Find your courage to let go of what is not important to you. Partner with like-minded others for extra support. Wishing you all a sane holiday season!

Alicia Farrell, Ph.D. is an accomplished cognitive psychologist, professional speaker and founder of Clearview Consulting. She has a private practice working with teens, adults, couples and families who want to make healthy and durable changes in their lives. Dr. Farrell brings 20+ years of expertise and passion to her work. You can connect with Alicia at