Day 11 | Beating the holiday blues

So this guy walks into a bar. Then another guy walks into the bar. And then another. And another. Pretty soon you’ve got a full house, and you realize what the big deal is. They’re here for the holidays.

Their heads are low. Their voices are soft. Underneath the sparkling red reindeer cutouts and glittering green garland strung above the counter, everyone here’s got the wintery blues.

Maybe you know one of them. Maybe you are one of them. Maybe you’re considering joining them. There’s a reason for that.

For many, this holiday season is the first one they’ll be celebrating following a loss in the family, the loss of a job, a fractured relationship, or any number of big life transitions.

From the outside looking in, the pain they must feel may be difficult to comprehend. From the inside looking out, the pain may be difficult to explain. But the holidays are here, nonetheless, and grappling with the new “normal” doesn’t have to debilitate us.

The reality is this time of year can be really difficult for a number of people for a number of reasons. This doesn’t mean that we do anything less to mark the occasion or that we stop celebrating the season altogether. It does mean that we’re mindful of others and how their experiences this past year may have deeply affected them. Compassion is critical.

If we ourselves are feeling the holiday blues, we have the opportunity to embrace our new “normal,” instead of choosing to reject it. We have the opportunity to start this new chapter of our lives on the right foot, which means it may actually be a good time to start a new tradition.

It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just something new. It can be as spontaneous as going to the movies with friends one night to watch the worst reviewed film of the year. Or start a Christmas potluck and show the world how good you are at making green bean casserole. Just remember, it’s a tradition, and that means you’ve got to keep at it, this year and the next.

Whatever tradition you start, turn it into a bookmark to celebrate the next chapter in your life, to passionately embrace the new “normal,” and to turn those holiday blues bright red and green.

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



Day 10 | The bird didn’t sh*t on you. The bird just sh*t.

“I learned there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead, others come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see. Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me.” – Dr. Seuss

I’m not going to name names because that would be rude. But, you and I know that there are times when our perspective warps our life.

Take the holiday party. We have high expectations when we put on an event or a dinner or a gathering or a party. We exhaust ourselves, trying to achieve a level of perfection and excellence for all the people that attend. That may not be a realistic goal, and when people step into those occasions and have a different response, it may have absolutely nothing to do with you or what you’ve done to prepare for that event.

Take the proverbial bird, carefree and excited, who sails 75 feet above your head when all of a sudden…. Holy crap! (You’re half-right…)

Really, you think that bird picked you out for this honor?

No, no. It didn’t. That is not how the bird works.

When it comes to holiday gatherings, you must know by now that people show up with their own Santa bag full of emotions, expectations, and behaviors.

Their baggage most likely will have nothing to do with you, but when we see the baggage being slung around, we do what so many others do and we believe (if not say), “When I see you do that, the story I make up in my head is that I am to blame, I’m an idiot, I’m a worthless blah, blah, blah….”

We personalize others’ stuff when they bring it to our parties or gatherings. And, if we’ve been spending too much time with Mr. Eggnog, those feelings tend to be way exaggerated.

So, when you experience or see the bird doing it’s business during the holidays—at your party or one you’re at, remember this: The bird didn’t sh*t on you, the bird just sh*t. It’s what birds do. It’s not personal.

Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 9 | Is this really rest?

“When you can’t wait for your ship to come in, you’ve got to row out to it.” – Greer Garson

I love Greer Garson. Not just for the wisdom she left us (may she rest in peace), but for her silky, smooth voice that comforted me when I was a kid and ready to relax a little during the holidays.

I remember plopping down in front of our sorta-color TV and listening to the soothing story-telling voice of Ms. Garson in the 1968 TV holiday classic, “The Little Drummer Boy.” You’ll remember the program if you’ve seen it because the characters were Claymation. And, don’t deny it if you’ve seen it and really liked it. It’s a classic.  And that’s just one of the many great shows and movies this time of year.

We all need rest, and the holidays seem like the ‘perfect’ time to rest. But, sometimes we make a mistake when we think, “I have to go from all that I’ve been doing to absolutely nothing and that’s going to recharge my batteries.”

No, that actually may not be the case.

There’s a lot of data in the exercise and physiology field that speaks to the value of “active recovery.”

Yes, you heard me correctly, you actually recover better from fatigue when you still keep a little bit of momentum in your life—not when you go from doing a lot to doing nothing.

I would encourage a little bit of caution when we’re tempted to totally veg for days on end. Too much of a good thing can end up putting us in a place that’s not as healthy as we would like.

What I would encourage is to make sure that your rest is restorative.

By the way, have you ever seen Elf? Let me tell you about that show…okay, another time.


Day 8 | Just keep shut your mouth

“If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!” – Ebenezer Scrooge

Wow, they clearly left that part out of the made for TV movie. Scrooge was a little over the top, but you get the point in a hurry.

And, when it comes to family, well…families can make us crazy like nobody else can during the holidays.

There’s nothing like family—joy, sorrow, expense and generosity all rolled into one!

At the holiday season, when it comes to families, we often fall back or get pushed into old roles and patterns before we can say, “Don’t be a Scrooge!”

Try to be more aware when family is pulling or pushing you off the deep end, and I encourage you to talk to your spouse before embarking on a visit to family over the holidays.

That lovely bride of mine…I can’t tell you how many times we’ll leave some Christmas family event, and she’s like, “Why did you do that?”

And I’m like, “I don’t know, man. I do not know. I have no idea!”

Sometimes, all she has to do is just give me the look.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at her back and said, “What is wrong with me?”

(Rhetorical! Don’t answer, please).

And you know this already: Carping at each other does nothing for your marriage. Studies have proven that couples that stop complaining at each other—and actually learn to communicate well with one another—see their marital satisfaction improve.

I think I know one of the secrets to dealing with family craziness, bickering with the spouse, feeling like an idiot.

Just keep your mouth shut. Enough said.


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


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