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  • Loralyn Mears, PhD

Monday Motivation: Holiday Survival Tips

This article was originally published on December 23, 2019 at

Monday Motivation here we come! We see you – coffee cup in hand, trudging through the dark cursing your commute. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! If you’re more of a podcast person versus someone who reads, listen to our Monday Matters content on Spotify. Check out our Grit Daily podcast channel.

This column is for those of you who slog through your Monday mornings. If you lament the end of the weekend and dread returning to the office, you may need our Monday Motivation quick tips. Studies show that your morning mood affects your productivity all day. And nobody wants to go through their day like an unmotivated, unproductive sourpuss, right? Grit Daily offers an avenue to connect with others like you. We’re here to help get your work week off to a good start. Pump your fists – it’s time for Monday Motivation!

Getting into the spirit


When I was married to an abusive POS, he did everything that he could to stop Christmas from coming. No tree because “the needles are so messy.” No traveling to see my family. Go shopping together on Xmas Eve because he “had” to buy me a gift so I’d pick something out and then we’d go up to the cashier together. I’d take out my credit card (he didn’t work for most of our marriage), pay for it, and he’d hand me the bag, “Merry Christmas.” It sucked for a lot of years but, it’s wonderful again!

Indeed, it’s time to trim the tree and deck the halls, embrace (or shun) the endless clanging of the Salvation Army bell and obsess over gift ideas – then end up purchasing an Amazon gift card anyway. Maybe you’re already elbow-deep in flour in the kitchen, baking all kinds of Christmas cookies for your holiday exchange. To get it all done in time, you’ll no doubt be referring to the tips presented in a Monday motivation column from earlier this year about getting organized.

‘tis the season

Perhaps you’re busy planning your holiday dinner menu, adding festive throw pillows to your couches and gearing up to host a zillion more people than you normally do. Then there’s that diet thing. How are you ever going to protect your kidneys from all that booze and stretch your stomach out far enough to eat all that holiday food? Not to mention the much-dreaded small talk and family debates about Trump which will likely end in fisticuffs. Ugh!

Or maybe you’re alone. Out of work. Out of cash. And wish that you had a holiday to look forward to.

I know a lot of people but I do not know anyone who experiences a Hallmark holiday. For most of the people that I know, it’s probably somewhere between a Griswold Family Experience and the satirical lyrics by Lana del Rey on her sixth studio album, Norman F*cking Rockwell. And, for a handful of us, it’s all in what we make it.

Have we lost the plot?

Over 70% of Americans feel the holiday season is stressful and wrought with anxiety. Google searches on “how to survive the holidays” spike at this time of year. So does self-indulgent behavior like retail therapy, alcohol, and drug consumption, all designed to numb how you feel and avoid what’s really going on. Don’t numb yourself – set realistic expectations and recognize that the holidays will be over before you know it. Or, take a Monday motivation attitude and look for a bright spot and hold onto it!

I maintain that we, as a society, have lost the plot every time that I read the news and learn about a terrorist attack, school shooting, senseless murder, animal cruelty or death by suicide. But we’ll unpack this theory another time. Today, our Monday motivation column is focused on the spirit of the season and what it really means.

That’s what this week’s Monday motivation is all about. Embracing what we have: there is always some glimmer of goodness even for those suffering right now. And if those people struggling can’t see the glimmer, help them see it. Better yet, do something to give them a glimmer.

Find goodness if every day

Traveling up into the Great White North for me isn’t easy, so I no longer go back to the homeland on Christmas. The flights are triple what they normally cost, there is only one flight per day and it’s often canceled due to inclement weather, so the journey is far from easy and involves a lot of time in airport lounges sitting on the floor because all the seats are already filled with other weary travelers. Being apart from my family is always tough around the holidays but I’m lucky: I have been adopted into a new family through my significant other so there is much joy around Christmas. 😊

There is always some drama but I stay rooted in what the holiday means – it means one more opportunity to be with loved ones because you never know if this will be the last one for you or one of them. And that needs to be the focus. Not the morbid aspect behind it. Au contraire! It’s about mindfulness and embracing the moment, maxing out on happiness to get every last drop out of the moment.

Tips to survive the season

Yes, the kitchen is a mess with 10,000 dishes. The kids moaned about the gift they didn’t get. Fine, your inlaws didn’t like the wine you selected – get over it. Someone broke yet another crystal glass. Whatever.

Take the opportunity to remind yourself and every one of the meaning of the holiday to regain perspective. We’re lucky that we can be together. We’re lucky that we have more food than we can eat on our table. We’re lucky that we received a gift at all, regardless of what it is, and if we didn’t receive a gift, so what? Hopefully, we gave one because that’s what this season is about.

Reach out. People may not know how you feel. And maybe it’s your turn to be the one reaching out.

#1 – if you are depressed

The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration offers a free, no questions asked, no judgment, 24/7/365 Help Line: 1-800-662-4357. Don’t wait, call to get the help you need.

If you have been experiencing depression and you can’t bear to be around your family (or “those friends”) who ask you non-stop about why you’re depressed and talk about how it affects them, it’s okay to say no. Skip the event. This is Monday motivation – skipping the event doesn’t mean that you stay in bed under the covers all day. Saying no means you are going to replace attending events by doing something else with a person or people you want to be with doing something that you want to do. Go out with someone who makes you laugh to reduce your anxiety.

Do you get to skip the holiday festivities every year? No, you don’t. But, if you need a pass this year, take it.

#2 – if you are alone

When you’re alone, it’s easy to go down the rat hole called a “pity party” which festers and further erodes your ability to get through the holidays. Perhaps you’re newly divorced and away from your kids for the first time. Some of you may have lost a loved one this year and it will be the first holiday without him/her/them. These are tough things to go through alone. But no situation lasts forever: things could be very different by this time next year. It will take work, but anything is possible.

Accept your situation, honor the memories you have of being with the people from your past. Then embrace a Monday motivation attitude of gratitude to look at it as an opportunity to develop new traditions, to make new friends, to share your love and holiday spirit with those who are struggling even more than you are. This is the perfect opportunity to shake things up – try something different!

#3 – if you have issues with your family

Many therapists recommend lodging at a hotel versus with your family so that you have a place to retreat to. Other tips including setting clear boundaries before you leave to travel to the event. Tips like setting a limit on how long will you stay, defining which topics are off-limits and planning your “not today” response that you’ll have ready on your lips to shut down a conversation that you don’t want to entertain. If you’re a stress-eater, stand at the back of the crowd, as far away from the counters as you can.

If things start escalating and teetering on the edge of control, quickly excuse yourself and go into the bathroom. Look into the mirror and silently mouth all the things that you want to say. You’ll look – and feel – ridiculous. That should give you just long enough to chill. Be prepared to take a walk around the block if you need a few moments to cool down. Or it may be time to leave. Do your best to make it a smooth departure citing that you had a good time and want to leave before that changes.

This is Monday motivation. Everybody has got something that they have to manage. It’s the holidays, remind yourself that it is the spirit of giving, not receiving, and think about what you can do for others to help them – so that you can help yourself.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Seasons Greetings! Happy Holidays! And cheers to whatever holiday that you celebrate – or don’t. Just find a way to be kind to yourself and others.

Photo credit: from Pexels

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