Holiday Bustle: 7 tips for keeping your cool during the holidaze

Ah, the holidays are upon us. Or should I say the holi-daze…

With the often fast paced shopping experience, cooking up a storm in the kitchen, and putting out the Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving is even over, it can be easy to feel the holiday stress…that imperceptible sense of hurriedness that seems to permeate the air. The feeling of working extra hours just to make sure you have extra gifts for the kids under the tree. Studying and trying out that new recipe so you don’t look a fool at your holiday gathering. Or insert whatever other activity is occurring in your life and taking up extra mental and emotional space in your head.


“I need to do this, buy that, cook for 8, and be here by 5…ahhh!”


So how does one go about taking a moment and soaking the holiday cheer in, instead of feeling overwhelmed and on edge, desperate to “make this year the best one ever”?! No need to induce all the added pressure on yourself…

The key here is NOT allowing yourself to take that stress on, and instead, be able to take a moment to step back and live in the moment. I have 7 tips for helping you through the holidaze because guess what? You deserve to create your own special memories this season whether in the kitchen with 20 family members or curled up on the couch with your dog. Everyone has the potential to have a happy holiday. So, please read on…

7 tips for helping you through the holidaze:

1.       Stay in the present moment. Maybe you are experiencing the pressure to hang up Christmas lights, transform the inside of your home into a winter wonderland, and embark on the hunt to find that perfect gift for your loved one! Sometimes it can all become a little too much. You may start to feel you’re on autopilot—you go to Target for some early present shopping but next thing you know you’ve migrated to Pier 1 yet you’ve lost sight of why you’re even in that particular store…

If you find yourself starting to experience the stress of shopping, the feeling of being on auto-pilot, trying to “keep up with the Joneses”, it’s time to regroup. Whether you take a quick moment to practice deep breathing (three breaths in through nose, hold in for a moment, then release through mouth), or decide to take a walk around your neighborhood—practice living in the here and now and staying out of the hustle bustle. If you thrive on being amidst the hustle bustle—embrace it! However, if you find yourself feeling emotionally drained and stressed, practice mindfulness and staying in the here and now.


Take a second for you.


2.       Realize that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays. We’ve all seen the movies, the TV programs that come on, the Facebook pictures of the “perfect Christmas”. If you’ve found that you are focusing too much on trying to recreate what you believe society defines as the perfect Christmas, stop! Whether you want to have Christmas brunch instead of Christmas ham, whether you want to go walk out on the beach with your family instead of sitting around a dining room table, make your holidays your own! If you find that you are falling into the comparison trap, it’s time to log out of social media for the day and instead–focus on who is in front of you.


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This family chose to take a holiday stroll. What is something that you or your family does to celebrate that is unique to them?


3.       Above all, realize that YOU ARE ENOUGH. In our world, people are celebrated on having excess “stuff” instead of developing memories and realizing that objects…things…don’t bring lasting happiness. Plenty of research has shown that experiences bring about a more permanent sense of fulfilment while tangible gadgets and “stuff” bring about fleeting moments of pleasure. Think about the two year old that basically receives all of Toys R Us and only focuses on playing with the boxes that the gifts came in…Just remember this season that YOU bring pleasure and happiness to others just by being you. If you don’t feel like you have the money to buy a gift, then show up with a good attitude and a helping hand.


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This kid doesn’t have a care in the world. He knows that he’s enough. 


4.       Make lists. So maybe you have a large family to buy gifts for or maybe you’ve been assigned to bake cookies for the holiday meal. Organized mind=organized life! Make a list of what you need to purchase and by what date. If you are overwhelmed by purchasing presents for everyone, set a budget for each person and make a succinct list of what you plan to buy them (keeping in mind your budget)—that way when you do decide to go shopping, you stay on track and feel more in control. Same goes for purchasing your ingredients needed for preparing the holiday meal.


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Santa is on to something with making this whole list thing…


5.       Embrace who you spend the special day with and where you are in life. This tip is similar to not falling into the comparison trap but I wanted to provide a bit more detail. So maybe you have strained relations with your family and will not be seeing them this year. Maybe you are single…again…and just feel sad that another holiday is passing you by and you don’t have a special someone to give that New Year’s kiss to.

In any case, if you are feeling down on your current life holiday status—it’s time to switch up your mindset. Instead of placing your focus on what you feel you do not have, focus on what you do have. Even if you perceive the only things you currently have to be necessities—housing, sheets on bed, clean water to drink—practice gratitude for having these items because they certainly didn’t just come out of thin air! If you are having to spend the holidays alone, then be thankful for…YOU! Think about past difficulties you have overcome and practice gratitude towards your self—focusing on developing even further inner strength.

6.       Focus on your reasons for celebrating. Whether you are celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or are in the midst of the Advent season, ultimately—what are your reasons for celebrating these special times? If you do not practice a particular religion, what are your reasons for celebrating? Is it a time to focus on family and spend time with one another, or maybe it’s a time to share a meal together and develop tradition?

family holiday.jpg

Developing and defining the reasons behind your celebration is key to keeping your focus where it should be and not allowing your stress to take over. Using the holidays as a teaching moment with the kids in the family, explaining traditions to them, and even reacquainting yourself with your belief system allows for a deeper look at why you celebrate. And definition always equates to clarity. Maintain perspective on why you celebrate.

7.       Lastly, HAVE FUN! Most of the time, you will have the day off from work and school unless you work in a hospital or convenience store. Even then, focus on having fun! I have worked plenty a holiday in the hospital setting and we all knew that we would rather be at home with family, but instead of letting it get us down, I remember eating good food and enjoying the company of the other people who were there. If you are fortunate to have the day off, practice self care! After the kids receive their gifts, go sneak off and take a hot bath. Go grab a long run in.


be bright
Be bright and find your happy, whatever that may look like to you! 


Do something that brings you a bit of happy and fun! Remember that you are in charge of how you feel, no one else. If you’re dreading seeing those certain family members or family friends, then recognize this and set boundaries—go ahead and mentally decide how you will handle a tense moment.  Even for the biggest Scrooge, the holiday season truly seems to pump a sort of magic in the air! Embrace the intangible magic of the season, be excited, and enjoy yourself— realizing that perfection is impossible and YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Tying it all together…

For many, holidays bring about a mixed bag of emotions. Dashed expectations, poor childhood memories, stress of making everything “just right” can certainly dampen the season. Practice these seven tips for surviving the holiday season and making it your own special day(s). As adults, we can recreate and turn around past negative holiday experiences, making the present holiday season a better experience for our kids, for ourselves, and for our spouses. Feel empowered and ready to take on this season.


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“I’m going to take on this holiday season with happiness and confidence!”


Wishing you and yours a truly magical and happy holiday season,

Rachel Ann Dine

Humanitas Counseling and Consulting, LLC

816 Greenbrier Circle, Suite 209

Chesapeake, VA



7 Tips for Effective Parenting

After years of working with families and children in the mental health field, I have come to have an arsenal of tips that I offer out to parents that are having a difficult time with their little one. I have observed how effective each of these tips can be in modifying a child’s behavior, so here they are! All parents struggle at times and the struggle is completely normal. Implement these techniques and let me know the changes that you observe!

1. Be consistent. No means no and yes means yes. Don’t forgo a rule because you’re tired and you don’t feel like reinforcing it. You will pay for it later as your child gets older and starts to test the boundaries that you have attempted to put in place. If they know what you expect from them, life is easier and more concrete. A great overview of many different parenting skills, but especially the importance of consistency:

2. Create structure and routine in your home. Especially for kids that are in school but really you can start this as early as you want. When kids know what you expect of them, they do better and similarly, kids thrive when they know what to expect at home and from you. Kids thrive when there is routine in place i.e. going to bed at the same time, taking a bath at a certain time each evening, eating dinner together (NOT in front of the t.v., please!). Routine alleviates anxiety about the unknown. We as adults certainly know this-how would we make it to work and be productive if our lives were all over the place?! Fantastic article that compliments the need and importance of structure for kids:

3. Have a “cool-down” spot in the house and DO NOT make this place your child’s bed. Many a parent has told me that they send their child to go sit on his or her bed when they misbehave and this is a big no-no! We want children to associate their bed with sleeping and peacefulness, not punishment! Some other parenting coaches may not agree with me, but I feel very strongly about this concept. Especially if you have a child that is already a tough one to get to go to bed, imagine them having to go lay down in their “time-out/punishment” spot! No Bueno! Instead, get a completely simple little chair and place it in a neutral spot in your home-one where there are no toys and no t.v. You never want to make your child stay in time out for longer than their age; kind of an old-school rule of thumb that I completely agree with. Two minutes can feel like an eternity for a 2 year old, not sure if they could handle any longer! The follow up to the cool down period is when you go to your child and talk to them about what happened. Make this a positive time for learning and bonding with your child! After the conversation, give them a hug, tell them you love them, really any form of encouragement to your child at this point after a successful cool down period is beneficial to your little sweetie’s mental health!

4. Teach children to control their emotions. If your child is having an outburst or temper tantrum, your best bet is to let them learn how to control their own emotions. I script this out for parents all the time. Say to your child in a calm, low voice, “When you are able to talk quietly, I’m here to listen”. Go back to the task that you are doing and using your best judgment, after a few minutes if they are still having a fit, say it again-“When you are able to talk quietly, I’m here to listen”. Short, sweet, and matter of fact.

5. Practice brevity of speech with your kids. Get to the point! After a certain amount of talking, whatever you’re trying to get across just gets lost on your child. Say Johnny wants a cookie before dinner and you want him to wait. All that you have to say is, “Honey, I want you to wait until after dinner because I made this meal especially for you and I think you will really like it”. Period. No need to go into a super long explanation about how it’s too much sugar, it will ruin his appetite, it’s not nutritious, etc. Just stick to the facts and let it lie. If he begins to tantrum, you can refer back to tip 4.

6. Give choices to your child. Part of the developmental milestone is for children to practice independence and autonomy. Let’s face it, children learn early that it’s fun to be in control. Our job as adults is to dole this control out in a way where ultimately, we are still the ones that are in total control but the child gets to use his own judgment. For example, let’s say Rebecca wants to sleep with 6 dolls in her bed each night. You know that there is really only room for 1. So you pick up her two favorite dolls and say, “Rebecca, which doll do you want to pick out to have a sleepover with tonite?!” Act excited about her choosing and I bet you anything, she’ll get on board-thinking that it is a very special thing to have a “sleepover” with her dolly! Check out this excellent article on the benefits of respecting your child’s autonomy by giving them choices:

7. Last but not least, affirm, affirm, affirm. As I talked about in my previous post, children go crazy for positive reinforcement and compliments. Tell your child what he or she is doing right! Focus on the positive skillsets that your child is developing vs. always harping on the negative behaviors. Extinction is a well-known behavioral modification intervention. We want to focus so much on the positive, prosocial behaviors, that eventually the negative behaviors will become extinct. So catch your child doing something good and tell them! Check out this article for more information on the different forms of behavioral extinction for children.

For all the parents out there that may be having some problems with their child, I hope that this information can be a helpful tool for increasing positive behaviors. Never give up! No one is a perfect parent. With that being said, what have been your tried and true methods for achieving desirable behavior from your child? What are your biggest struggles as a parent?

I’ll leave you with a quote that seems to sum up parenting a defiant child pretty well:

First they ignore you,

Then they laugh at you,

then they fight you,

then you win.