Day 7 | Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

“People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas.”  ~Author Unknown

Yes!  That guy has it right.

“Christmas is the only time of the year in which one can sit in front of a dead tree and eat candy out of socks.”
– Comedian Rick Sutter

I’ll be here all week!  That’s what I’m talking about.  This can’t be a surprise, you will never be around this much sugar and butter products in your life.

Okay, you get it. Christmas is not a license for overindulgence. Whether it’s food, alcohol, spending money on gifts…just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

This time of year, too many of us celebrate the substance—not the season.

We need to be mindful that food and alcohol can be easy substitutes and distractions for emotions, or for our thoughts about occasions.

Before you step into a situation where the proverbial eggnog will flow, I’d encourage you to have a goal in mind when it comes to the food you want to eat or drinks that you want to have. And be prepared to stop when you’ve achieved your goals.

I would encourage you to be mindful of the environment that you’re in. We sometimes get swept away by our surroundings or the emotions of the situation—and overindulge.  Just because your friend is on their 3rd piece of pumpkin pie does not mean you should be.  I have 2 boys in college and a handful of nephews the same ages, if I’m not careful, I will be physically ill.  I can’t tell you how many times I have to remind myself that I don’t have that much testosterone any more, I can’t eat like that and function well.

When we don’t have a goal in mind, sometimes we find ourselves looking back at what was to have been a joyous time and having a lot of feelings of guilt and shame and remorse.

Give yourself a plan to navigate the food and alcohol festivities of the holiday season – not because you should, but because you can. You got this.


–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360


Day 6 | There’s always Uber

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle

One of the most popular gifts this holiday season will be a gift card for Uber.

Not the uber like in, “he’s uber famous.” But the Uber as in the app on your phone that delivers a car to your location within five to 10 minutes. It’s a taxi by phone app.

Uber is a fabulous tool during the holidays—not just to give as a gift card, but to use yourself. If you plan to go out and celebrate with some eggnog (or other alcoholic beverage), you need to have a plan. This could be a family gathering or the company holiday party or dinner with friends—whatever it is, you need to plan your race and race your plan.

A plan is especially important because sometimes emotions run high this time of year, and we sometimes move down a path of thinking that says, “I have to go and do this, and I don’t want to stay long, and I don’t have a graceful out, and I have lots of anxiety about this.” Before you know it, you’re feeling stress and tempted to over indulge to get through the anxiety.

That’s when the plan kicks in. Look at your list of pre-planned options, and on that list should be Uber.

Uber is all about planning ahead, but without a lot of hassle.

I work with some professional triathletes, and to calm their nerves we work through their individual race plan. They don’t want to suddenly become anxious in the middle of the race, feeling like all their options are closed. No, they have a list of options because they have planned to race and when they’re in the middle of it, they race their plan. And you should, too.

Anxiety decreases about the holidays when you prepare a plan to deal with the variables, especially parties. Be Uber ready.

– Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 5 | If it’s the thought that counts, why’d you spend so much money?

Just how obsessive is the American culture about buying just the right holiday gift?

I don’t know, Kevin, how obsessive are we?

We’re so obsessive that in the UK—which doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving—shoppers there have adopted our Black Friday concept. I was gobsmacked!

We’re so obsessive about shopping online that we’re setting records every year! Online shoppers in the United States will spend an estimated $327 billion in 2016, up 45% from $226 billion this year and 62% from $202 billion in 2011! I’m in the wrong business!

We’re so obsessive, that the QVC shopping TV channel (“Quality, Value, Convenience”) runs in six countries—China among them—and reaches more than 235 million households! (“…act now, not much time remaining for this special…”)

Whether it’s at work, with your boss, or your employees, or it’s a mom and a dad looking at what they’re getting for kids, or it’s a husband and wife, or it’s people who are dating—well, we like to buy things for them.

But time out. If it’s the thought that counts during the holidays, what are we asking our gifts to do? Sometimes we ask gifts to do things they can’t do.

Before you spend the money on a present, do a little self check. Am I asking this gift to repair a relationship? Am I asking it to bring us closer? When we ask gifts to do more than they can, we might be heading down a bad road, open for all manner of disappointed and resentment. If you’re not sure what that looks like, it usually starts with “That’s the last time I will ever…Well, see if I ever…., Did you see her, she didn’t even….”

But if my gift is a reflection of my thoughts and feelings about a particular relationship, then it might just be the perfect way to thoughtfully communicate the thought.

Bottom line: If it’s the thought that counts this holiday season, let’s be mindful. You might just save a little money…and some obsessive, compulsive tendencies when it comes to shopping!

–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 4 | Your spouse is probably right

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” – Madeleine L’Engle

Yep, it’s one of the cruel blessings of being with someone who knows you well. Accept it. Grow in it. Enjoy it. Hang an ornament on it.

There’s just no getting around it: Your spouse is probably right.

Being vulnerable during the holidays is part of a healthy relationship. Your spouse or significant other just sees you and knows you in ways you don’t see you.

I first became aware of this fact, and it was kind of unnerving, because it was so early in my marriage. I had finished talking on the phone, and my wife said to me, “Hey, how is your mom?”

“How do you know who I was talking to?” I asked.

She’s like, “I can always tell when you’re talking to my mom, and I can always tell when you’re talking to your mom.” Then I said, “Oh, that’s neat”. What I thought was “Oh my hell, who did I marry and how did I not realize she has super powers”. Yeah, it was a little unnerving, kinda cool, kinda odd. I didn’t notice that. I didn’t see that. She did. Next thought “this is going to take some getting used to”.

As we step into the holiday season, you will hear your spouse say stuff that you might typically argue about. There is that element of, “No, I don’t really do that!”

One of the kids might try to yank your chain, and you want to snap, “What do you mean by that?”

If you rupture family harmony by over reacting, be a little quicker to repair it. You don’t need to wait until after the holidays. It’s okay to say, “Yeah, babe, I think you might be right on that one. Or, okay, kid, you’re probably on to something about me.” Recovering well is more valuable than perfection.

Step back and embrace the reality that your family perceives you in ways you’re not aware of. If you find yourself surprised, defensive or anxious about their sharing you with you (being vulnerable!), see it as an opportunity to grow. It is a blessing in disguise. This holiday season, make your vulnerability a gift to others—and to yourself.


–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360


Day 3 | Decorating? Seriously, this is your Alamo?

Charlie Brown:  I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”

Linus Van Pelt:  “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy’s right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.”

Okay, let’s admit it, we’ve all been Charlie Brown when it comes to decorating for Christmas.

Decorating for the holidays. Seriously? You’re going to make it your Alamo? This is the hill you’re going to die on? They make movies out of these kinds of fights. The spouse wants a big tree with lights, camera and action. You don’t want the fuss or later mess to clean up. So you decide to make this you line in the sand, the “this far and no farther” conversation. Really?

Decorating disagreements are usually the purview of husbands and wives. Sometimes, moms and dads can go at it with the kids who, especially as they grow older, don’t want to participate.

I was talking with a colleague in the office the other day about the Alamo…uh, I mean decorating. “Oh, yeah, that happened last weekend with me,” he said. I’m like, “Oh yeah, it happens with all of us.” So much emotion, so little thought.

Some of us can have strong emotions about holiday decorating. That’s because memory is a powerful influence this time of year. For you, it might be a begrudging trip to get a Christmas tree. For your kids, it might be a story they’ll talk about for the rest of their lives at the holidays. What you decide to do is not nearly as important as how you make the decision. Is it a discussion or is it a decree? Is it all emotion and no rational thought? Who is it for and what is it for? You choose. Well, you and whoever it is who wants you to move the furniture again this year.

Good news. You get to choose how you’re going to step onto this hill. Never forget: Between stimulus and response, there’s a space called choice. This Christmas, you don’t have be a Charlie Brown.

[Linus knocks on an aluminum Christmas tree, which gives a metallic “clank”]

Linus Van Pelt: “This really brings Christmas close to a person.”

Charlie Brown: [gazes in amazement] “Fantastic.”


–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360


Day 2 | How are you surprised by this?

How are you surprised by this?

Did you not see the Jack-o’-lantern and the Christmas tree together a week before Thanksgiving at Walmart? How in the world can people be surprised, and yet, if you listen to people talk, they seemed alarmed and surprised that it “snuck up on me”.

In the past week, I’ve had several people say to me “I hate the holidays”, to which I reply, “really?” Then, almost every time, I get “Well, no, I hate my family.” To which I reply “Really??” That’s when the responses start to go a lot of different directions – a sister, a party, the finances and gifts, the travel.

Those are the things that seemed to leave us feeling stressed, overwhelmed, panicked, and maybe sad.They leave us feeling this season is so difficult that we wish it would go away. If you’re feeling any of those, you’re in good company, it’s pretty common this time of year.

Let’s look at a few things that might help.

If you want these holidays to be different, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. What worked well for you during last year’s Christmas season? What felt good and fun and left you feeling recharged? What do you wish you would have done but didn’t?

What didn’t work well? What has you shaking your head, rolling your eyes and feeling drained by what happened last Christmas? What did you want to skip last year?

To borrow some wisdom from an old Englishman, Oswald Chambers, “Whenever we experience something difficult in our personal lives, we are tempted to blame God.” And if most of us were honest, the difficulty of the season may be user error – I agreed to do the party, I agreed to find that random gift everyone on the planet wants, I agreed to talk with my brother about how he acts at Christmas – and the list goes on.

Maybe it’s a good year to not do all those things. Maybe it’s a year to think about the role you play in this season being so hectic and over scheduled.

Do the stuff you enjoy! Minimize the stuff you don’t. And maybe, just maybe, you will get more by doing less.


–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360


Day 1 | Santa is Dead

So…we’re going to ease into “The New 12 Days of Christmas” with this declaration: Santa is dead.

Okay, glad that’s out of the way.

Of course, this is a touchy point this time of year. Actually, it came out of a discussion we had around the office recently. “How do I deal with Santa and my spirituality?”

There is an unmistakable convergence of religion this time of year. But let’s face it: there are some of us who can’t hold the Baby Jesus and Santa at the same time. This conflict of religion and secularism (or commercialism) is a very real crisis for many of us. Especially young parents. So, what do we do?”

If you don’t know an elementary school teacher, you need to find one in the next couple of weeks. Ask him or her if this tension is a real struggle for parents.

I just so happen to know an elementary school teacher really well and her latest story is a true tale from her classroom. She had one set of parents, a bit rigid in their thinking, who told their son “Billy” that “there’s no such thing as Santa.” Of course Billy, in an effort to cling to the idea of a magical man who brings presents every year, responded, “Well, “Cindy’s parents told her there is a Santa!”—to which Billy’s parents replied, “Well, Cindy’s parents are lying to her.”

It didn’t take any time for Billy to spread the news around the classroom. And just like that, Santa was dead for a classroom of former believers. A small part of the childhood seemed lost forever.

All of this came full circle for me the other day. I was watching Polar Express, not a big deal, I have kids. Now, to be fair, my kids are in college but I like that film in spite of its creepy animation. Remember in the movie how the little boy can’t hear the little bell? At the risk of overdoing the psychology of it all, this is symbolic of not being able to hear the Spirit of Christmas.

What does this mean for us? Somewhere along the way of growing up, some of us have forgotten how to play, how to have fun, believing in something magical. We’ve lost the connection with our childhood. So my question to us all this holiday seasons is, when did we lose that ability to play? To have fun?

This time of year, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Santa drops off gifts once a year and appears to only eat cookies and drink milk. That’s a temporary jolt of happiness that tends to fade as soon as all of the gifts are opened. Religion, on the other hand, can change lives and instill joy every day of the year.

The next time you hear a group of kids talking about Santa, listen to what they have to say. Take note of their excitement and their pure joy of this magical time of year. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll rekindle the fun of the season you once loved. And, most certainly, feel free to also celebrate a more meaningful reason for the season.


–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360


Are you suffering from Post-Traumatic Thanksgiving Disorder?

If by clicking on the blog you immediately began to relive the negative events that occurred on Thanksgiving Day, you may be experiencing early signs of Post-traumatic Thanksgiving Disorder.

You are experiencing completely normal and healthy post-thanksgiving responses if you meet the following criteria:

  • Exhaustion, from tirelessly hosting the event of thanksgiving
  • Excessive Napping, due to the levels of tryptophan in your turkey leftovers
  • Sadness, from your favorite thanksgiving team losing, despite the hope of the “greatest comeback season of all time” (Cowboy fans, this one is for you)
  • Anger, due to the grandma who grabbed the sold out Black Friday item out of your cart and escaped into the crowd

However, if you are experiencing the following post-thanksgiving responses, you meet criteria for Post-traumatic Thanksgiving Disorder:

  • Repeatedly Reliving the events of Thanksgiving in your thoughts, causing great distress
  • Avoiding family members phone calls and text messages, and creating “believable” reasons why you will not be able to attend Christmas this year
  • Difficulty showing affection to others
  • Difficulty sleeping due to ruminating thoughts about Thanksgiving

Other potential reactions specifically related to the holiday may be: Shock, anger, fatigue, nervousness, fear, and guilt. Some of you may now be asking, what do I do now that I think I might have PTTD? How do I get better? If re-enacting the following video does not help, read further.

A Thanksgiving Miracle – Saturday Night Live

If Adele didn’t solve your family issues, you have Post-traumatic Thanksgiving Disorder, or PTTD, more serious than most. PTTD involves a continual recovery process which helps you learn how to cope effectively. Treatment can lead to fewer and less intense responses. Individual and family therapy may be helpful for you and your loved ones to learn healthy communication patterns and solve chronic problems. With a little help, I believe you can soon have an enjoyable holiday that you won’t want to forget or avoid.

In all seriousness, I do believe that the holiday season often stirs up and bring to light the difficulties in our family relationships. There are ways to improve those relationships, and we can help in the process of change. But Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a serious condition that some people live with, which can lead to difficulties in relationships. Many survivors of a traumatic event do not develop PTSD, which is extremely hopeful.

However, you or your loved ones should seek licensed professional to help determine whether or not PTSD is a helpful and accurate diagnosis. For more information on how to clinically diagnose and/or treat PTSD contact us today!

– Austin Parsons



Who do I ask for help?

One time I ordered a gold Casio calculator wristwatch on eBay. I know, I know — I have incredible taste and a penchant for fine timepieces.

Unfortunately, the item arrived broken, as the wristband’s clasp was bent a wrong direction. This type of occasion usually makes me very grumpy — although I love e-commerce, I absolutely loathe returns.

Fortunately, a new client entered treatment that same week: a young man who suffered from a severe methamphetamine use disorder.

Now some folks are afraid of meth users. To me, they’re God’s gift to, well, broken gold Casio calculator wristwatches.

The following day, using three paperclips and the same number of minutes, my client corrected the clasp issue. He smiled big and handed me the item. (In no time, I was completing intricate calculations while dazzling my peers.)

About three weeks later, that same client was struggling, coming to grips with his recent life — one filled with binges, theft, heartbreak, and self-destruction. He wasn’t self-pitying; he was exploring reality with honesty and sincerity for the first time in a long time.

In one session he looked up from tears and said, “For several months now, no one has trusted me with anything. People hide stuff when I come over. They have every right not to trust me,” and then he paused.

“I want to thank you for letting me fix your watch.”

I didn’t know how to respond, mainly because I had no idea my repair request impacted this fellow in such a way.

In life, sometimes it’s hard to tell who to turn to. We wonder if that guy will be able to help, or if that friend will really listen. We question if she really cares or if he’s going to give us honest feedback.

In my experience with asking for help, the worst thing I do is deny someone an opportunity to assist or downplay if that request will have any benefit.

My encouragement is to give that person a try — for we don’t know how much he/she needs that chance.

by Jack Britton


Why don’t we ask for what we need?

When a pair of pants didn’t fit the way the rest of that company’s pairs fit, I recalled a recent interview in which the CEO said he personally checks his email.

And so I looked up his company’s email address format and sent him a note: “I live 300 miles from the nearest J. Crew, and I need the right pants — will you please assist me?”

Company head Mickey Drexler responded in 30 minutes, and I had the right pants within 30 hours.

Why don’t we ask for what we need?

To simplify that answer, a note on tribes: a group of us was taught never to ask; another sector of us is scared to ask; and a third pack might be both.

In my experience, the never-askers have a different but very useful skill: to seek. And that skill helps one assert: by reframing assertiveness as a variant of self-sufficiency (I’m doing the asking, not you), I accomplish something while fulfilling my needs.  I thereby challenge what I’ve been taught, and usually I feel better about the result.

The fearful bunch has a different, equally beneficial skill as well: often they know the right tone, cadence, and wording they would use if they were to ask for their needs.  Those elements also help us assert our needs as tone, cadence, and wording suggest that we are strategic, compassionate, and courageous.

So how do we challenge our tendency to say nothing?


The other day two men from the gas company stopped by my house — one appeared to be teaching the other. I stepped outside, made small talk, and ultimately requested the supervisor’s card.  Why?  I had been having difficulties with the gas company, and so an ally would be helpful at some point.  A cheerful fellow, he was more than happy to provide his card.

Sure enough, when a gas matter arose weeks later, I called on Joe to help me out.  (I also emailed the chief operations officer, but that’s another story.)  Asserting for his card paid off: Joe fixed the situation that the call center struggled to schedule.

Let’s pause to acknowledge some challenges often associated with assertiveness: There is, of course, a fine line between assertiveness and a demonstration of entitlement, just as there is a line between assertiveness and aggressiveness.  These lines ought to be explored with some guidance from therapists and trusted friends.  And they are topics for another blog.

In the meantime, if you’ve recognized that you are in need of assertiveness practice, start simply.  Remember: seemingly insignificant circumstances can be the best opportunities to try asserting, and it’ll pay off.

That great sweater? The website says it’s sold out, but it’s not.

Just ask Mickey.

– by Jack Britton