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  • Writer's pictureDr. Carrie Steiner

Holiday Wellness


Being a first responder comes with many challenges, one of which is navigating the holidays. Being home for the holidays is not always an option. So, if you do have to work, consider realistic plans that can be easily accomplished. Communication with your family and your work during this time will be the key. Ensure you are reasonable with your time and capabilities. If you have to work on the holiday, create a special day to celebrate the holiday with your family. Recognize that your family may still want to see you that day, so give them a quick call or facetime, when possible.

At work, try to create a festive and fun environment with food, decorations, traditions, and stories. During the holidays, your department or agency can create its own traditions, maybe a secret Santa, a tree with special ornaments representing all of the diversity at your office, or a special delivery to those in need. This is the time of the year for giving and giving to others usually feels good. If you do have off for the holidays, really try to be “present” with your family. Take time to decompress from your job, let go, and enjoy the time with your family. Be mindful of your eating and drinking to appreciate your holiday time.

During the holidays, try not to compare yourself to others. Focus on what you can do. Focus on gratitude and what you have rather than what you do not have. Recognize the holidays may also bring up grief or negative emotions as we can remember people that we have lost or no longer have in our life. If this occurs, recognize your emotions, allow yourself to feel them, as repression and avoidance does not work long term. Be patient with yourself and ask for patience from loved ones. Especially when trauma is involved, the holidays may bring up difficult and often triggering feelings. You are worthy of and have the power to feel comfort and set yourself up for a successful holiday season. If you are struggling, reach out and talk to someone you trust or a therapist for help.

Remember it is a gift to allow someone to help you! Helping feels good!


▪ Plan early. Be a part of the festivities before the holiday itself, help with gifts, contribute to family duties before or after the celebrations, bake family meals, or take part in traditions when possible.

▪ Make new traditions that do not center around one big day; emphasize time before, during or after the holiday. Have family members engage in a ‘gratitude advent calendar’ where each family member write what they are grateful for each day and at Christmas you can read to each other.

▪ If working, consider celebrating with everyone at the department and have everyone bring in their favorite dish or dessert.

▪ Consider doing something for those in need. Could you bring food or presents to children in need or a co-worker who is sick or injured?

▪ Prepare for social situations that you feel will be overwhelming. Can you step away and take time to relax before or during events?

▪ Communicate your needs to family and friends so they know how best to support you.

▪ If getting together with others, request that certain topics be avoided, such as politics, news

stories, or topics about work.

▪ Prioritize sleep and use sleep hygiene suggestions listed above.

▪ Limit caffeine and energy drinks. Rely on your own energy and this will also help you realize when you need sleep or to take a break.

▪ Watch old and new holidays tv shows and movies to get yourself in the spirit.

▪ Focus on your own self-care.

▪ Try to let go of negative feelings like guilt, regret and anger and replace with acceptance,

gratitude, and pride for the things you have learned.

▪ Exercise, eat healthy, and sleep well.


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