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Tips for the Holidays

Get some tips from your FSAP counselors to help you navigate the holiday season.

The counselors at the UC San Diego Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) recognize that while the holidays can be a time for joy and connection with loved ones, it can also be a challenging and stressful season. Read on to get some tips and insight from the FSAP team for this holiday season. 

Tips for the Holidays

Tips for the Holidays

From Jennifer Triana, LCSW

In 2019 I traded in my New York skyscrapers for San Diego palm trees!  Just when I start to feel like a true San Diegan each year, the holidays hit, bringing nostalgia and some blues amid all the red and green.  In fact, for many of us (transplants or not) this time of year may bring with it stress and heightened feelings of disconnection.  So, what’s a person to do?

Here are some tips to help to re-envision and reimagine the season of holidays into a more connected and joyful time of year, no matter what your situation or where you think of as home.

  1. Celebrate your “Chosen Family”:  We don’t need blood ties to feel kinship or connection.  Families can be formed with friends, neighbors, colleagues and even our beloved pets.  If you’re looking for togetherness, whether introverted or extroverted, your chosen family can provide comfort during the holiday season.
  2. Create new traditions:  If it feels too challenging or painful to recreate old family traditions, why not start your own?  Maybe you do a Christmas movie marathon, yoga on the beach or a beautiful hike each day of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.  Even the oldest traditions have to start with someone.  Why not with you?  Start by identifying your values and see how those can translate to activities you would like to create.
  3. Get connection through volunteering:  Many of us define the “holiday spirit” with acts of service.  Volunteering your time can increase positive feelings for you and someone in need.  Food banks, soup kitchens and animal rescue centers all rely on caring individuals to help throughout the holiday season and can benefit from your time and skill.  Pro Tip:  You can also volunteer as a group.  Gather your chosen family and make some holiday memories!
  4. Explore San Diego through a holiday lens:  As a newcomer to San Diego, I was excited to visit different neighborhoods and get a feel for the area, but I didn’t know where to start and always wanted a good excuse to sightsee.  Here are a few good “free” excuses:  The Hotel Del Coronado’s “All That Jazz” Lightshow Spectacular (November 17-January 7, 2024, 5-9 p.m. nightly), Liberty Station’s Hanukkah & Menorah Lighting (public menorah lighting on December 7), Balboa Park December Nights (December 1 and 2, 3-11 p.m.), Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village (December 2, 4-8 p.m.), Ocean Beach Holiday Parade (December 2 at Sunset) and San Diego Bay Parade of Lights (December 10 and 17, procession will start at 5:30 p.m. and will follow the predetermined parade route)!
  5. Start your New Year’s resolutions early by staying active:  Since exercise is linked to stress relief, reduction in depressive symptoms and improving our cognition, you may want to stay active and healthy year-round (American Psychological Association, 2020). For example, consider beating the holiday stress with Father Joe’s Villages 22nd Annual Thanksgiving Day 5K (November 23) or the 11th Annual San Diego Holiday Half Marathon (December 16).  Remember, you can always volunteer at these events instead of participating as an athlete if you feel you need more time to prepare physically.

These are only a few tips to get your ideas flowing and your holiday spirit glowing.  If you would like to discuss your experiences or more ideas for coping with the holiday blues, please contact FSAP to make an appointment.

Resources to Explore:

A Personal Commitment for Five Days

A Personal Commitment for Five Days

From William Youngblood, M.S., LMFT, CEAP, CATP

In 2011, Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, wrote the book Flourish. In it he outlined five elements that contribute to well-being. During this time, as personal and professional pressures increase with increasing stressors in our lives, it can benefit us to take simple steps towards behaviors that increase our sense of well-being and increase resilience.

For this five-day commitment, we will use Seligman’s five elements to guide our 5 days of focus signified by the acronym PERMA. Feel free to do each of these days consecutively or accomplish them throughout the holiday season. Most of these commitments will have benefits in more than one area of PERMA.

Day 1: Positive Emotions

Research has found that acts of kindness significantly help us feel better physically and emotionally. For your first day, decide on a random act of kindness you will carry out. Perhaps you can check in on a neighbor, give an inspirational book to someone, pay for the person behind you in line, make it a day of complimenting others, leave quarters at a laundromat with a note wishing someone a great day, or any other random act of kindness. Find more ideas for random acts of kindness »

Day 2: Engagement

When we are deeply and fully engaged in an activity, it greatly impacts our sense of well-being. For your second day, make a list of activities that you get deeply engaged in; then, engage in one of those activities. Consider activities that require a balance of skill and challenge. Options like doing a puzzle, sports, building something, gardening, writing, music, etc. Learn more about the power of engagement »

Day 3: Relationships

Positive healthy relationships allow us to feel connected, understood, challenged, and can offer a pleasant distraction. For your third day, take a moment to write a letter of gratitude to someone in your life. Communicate to them the behaviors they do that you appreciate, what it says about them, and what their behavior communicates to you. For an extra moment of connection, read it out loud directly to them before giving them a copy. Read more about relationships and social connection »  

Day 4: Meaning

Having an understanding about the meaning of the behaviors we engage in can make a significant difference in how we experience them. For example, UC San Diego employees can just simply work a job or they can acknowledge they contribute to a top-ranked university that educates future leaders and conducts research that will changes the world for the better. On your fourth day, take a moment to consider an activity you do often (job, relationship, daily routine, parenting, etc.). Then list your reasons why you engage in this activity. Next refine this to how this activity contributes to higher values in life that matter most to you (accomplishment, connection, compassion, responsibility, etc.). Notice how his impacts your view of this activity. Read more about meaning and purpose »

Day 5: Accomplishment

When we notice accomplishment and areas of growth we feel the positive consequences of our success. On your fifth day, make a list on a piece of paper of three specific concrete tasks that you would like to accomplish for the day. Each time you complete a task, draw a line through it; then, say out loud, “Great! I did it”! Then, of course, upon completing your five days, remember to say out loud, “Great! I did it”! Read a nice summary article about accomplishment »

Music is the Universal Language of Love

Music is the Universal Language of Love

From the Resource Desk at FSAP

Jimmy Cheatham always said – with that big, bright smile – “Music is the universal language of love.” He was a faculty member of UC San Diego's Department of Music for 27 years before retiring in 2005. He provided inspiration and, during this unpredicatable year and holiday season, continues to remind us to connect to life and the world!

Whether you listen to music that brings you comfort and joy (like the jazzy, festive soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas) or enjoy something new, find expression and inspiration through music that can be relatable and universal to all! In case you missed it or you want to be a part of a jam session, here is your invitation to join Jeannie and Jimmie Cheatham and the Sweet Baby Blues Band perform "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On"