Since Labor Day, inflatable Santas have been pestering us, signaling that the holidays are rapidly approaching. Trees, lights and decorations have been rushing the season back into summer. But now, it really is time to focus on them.

For some, the holidays are a joyful and magical time of year. We decorate our homes, celebrate with family and friends, enjoy seasonal foods, wear ugly sweaters, honor our spiritual beliefs, find gifts under the tree and dance in the New Year.

For others, the holidays are a time of significant stress. They represent bad memories, loneliness and the darkness of winter, which for some is compounded by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and just plain holiday blues. 

No matter how you view the holidays, this year we’ll all be trying to navigate our way through the realities of COVID-19 and the post-election stress we’re sure to experience after this chaotic election season. That’s a recipe for unhappiness you don’t want to make, which is why we all need to take extra special care this year.

Here are 11 ways you can navigate the 2020 holidays with a smile:

Exercise. There’s no better antidepressant than cardio activity. If you can, move your body – go outside for a walk, dance indoors, use a treadmill, or walk laps inside your home. If you have limited mobility, do leg lifts, stand up and sit down, move your arms, or any other activity you can do. Just don’t become a bump on a Yule log.

Drink plenty of water. Keep your body hydrated to flush out toxins and other holiday blahs. Being even slightly dehydrated can cause moodiness, problems concentrating, headaches and fatigue – nothing jolly about that.

Get plenty of sleep. With or without visions of sugarplums.

Eat the good-for-you stuff. Green leafy vegetables, as well as red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables can all help heal and cleanse your body. No, fruitcake doesn’t count.

Minimize fats, salts and sugars. Yes, many of the seasonal foods we grew up with are filled with unhealthy ingredients, but particularly this year, limit these treats to your holiday meals, and keep your serving size small. I challenge you this Thanksgiving to keep your dinner portions to no more than two cups of food. Yes, including pumpkin pie. And remember that Thanksgiving is one meal. Enjoy the goodies at your tribal feast, but not for breakfast, lunch and dinner over the next three days.

Avoid alcohol. If you drink, savor it slowly, and then have two 12-ounce glasses of water before your second drink. If you then want a third drink, have two more 12-ounce glasses of water first. Better yet, just drink the water. Many of the not-so-merry memories some of us have were likely fueled by alcohol. Experiment with sparkling punches or mulled cider instead (by the way, self-hypnosis is the perfect tool for managing the not-so-merry memories).

Celebrate some new holiday traditions. Since this year will likely be so different, why not research traditions of other cultures, or create your own?

Manage your budget. You don’t have to spend a fortune on impersonal retail gift cards. Consider creating gifts like a jar of jam, some artwork or knitting a scarf. A festive Zoom call might be far more appreciated than accumulating more stuff. Don’t forget your reindeer ears.

Create fun and laughter. If you live in the north, go out and make snow angels; those of us in the desert can make sand angels. Surefire laughter starters are watching classic comedies or doing Laughter Yoga on YouTube. Really? You haven’t seen it? Go. Now. Giggle.

Gather together – apart. Find ways to enjoy your loved ones even when you have to social distance. Make frequent phone calls – not texts – actual it’s-nice-to-hear-your-voice phone calls. Try family Zoom meals, food fights optional. You could even play Monopoly or other games with your grandchildren via Zoom – for extra fun, make up some new rules. Land in jail? You have to sing a carol. 

Perhaps most important. Pray, meditate, or use self-hypnosis and other mindfulness-based ways of feeling spiritually connected and managing your stress. 

Though the pandemic has changed so much this year, it doesn’t need to change the authentic spirit of our holiday celebrations. So please, be safe and be healthy. And remember, you do have a choice: the holidays can be dark and dismal, or you can choose to light the world from within and share your joy and love.

Roger Moore is a certified counselor and registered hypnotherapist with Palm Desert Hypnosis and can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 219.8079. For more information, visit

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