12/22/2014 11:46 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'Tis the Season to Lose Your Marbles: 12 Tips for Holiday Sanity

Photo credit: pippalou from

Despite seasonal depression, I try to focus on the positive aspects of the season. But it also means I must guard against the chaos that can push me to dizzying speeds. The lights, the money, the crowds, the colors in brilliant, blinding hues, are at times too much. Throw it all in a blender, hit the switch, and I could lose my marbles, making for one manic mix-in I can't afford to drink. Last year I got caught up in and it nearly ruined my Christmas.

I have a new strategy and have entered into this season with a game plan. No busy stores or mass crowds for me. This year will be different and so far it has been.

There are a few things any of us, mentally ill or not, can do to control the season and make for relative peace. The captain obvious one is being organized, but we could always use a few more to manage the stress-o-meter.

And who hasn't been the token single one at a small party? Who hasn't been the broke one in the family? Personally, it's a check, check here. Regardless of status, the holidays are stressful and not just because of the gift buying and the crowds; socially it is, too. Families come together and personalities ping pong like a lotto ball machine gone wild.

So, to avoid last year's near holiday meltdown, this year I've been staying sane by employing these tactics.

10 Tips For Holiday Sanity

  1. Come late, leave early = strategy for difficult social events.
  2. Always have a "getaway" car at every event.
  3. Mostly early, local shopping. It was nice to get out before the packed crowds and support and meet local shop owners.
  4. While at home, I use every 'smell' tool I have. It's our most powerful sense and nothing calms me like lavender, my perfume or potent holiday-scented room sprays.
  5. Light candles and burn scents. They're instant peace.
  6. Consider putting fresh pine clippings around the house even if you don't have a tree. Winter scents are especially pungent and pleasant.
  7. Avoid holiday music overkill. I love to deck the halls but not climb them. (My retail stint at the mall one Christmas didn't help.)
  8. When it's a tough financial year -- like every year can be -- I get clever and turn to smaller, sentimental gifts like something homemade or pictures.Those are the ones that people remember anyway.
  9. Keep track of spending to help stay in budget.
  10. When in doubt, focus on the children. If you have a limited budget, buy only for the children in your family.
  11. Focus on gratitude. While this may sound trite, it is hard to feel sorry for yourself if you focus on what you are grateful for.
  12. Consider donating to a charity or two. Sure, I love my annual Christmas check from Uncle Roger, but it's more important when he donates to Heifer International in my name.

Keeping a global perspective is a fast way to get right-sized during the holidays. Looking around you and being grateful is what it's all about.

Happy Holidays, everyone. May you have a joyful season without losing your mind.