Holiday Resilience

Jim Kendall, director of Vanderbilt's Work/Life Connections-EAP, suggests strategies for maintaining resilience during the holiday season.

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Rosemary Cope:  Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast.  I am Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections.  My guest today is Jim Kendall, who is the manager for Work/Life Connections Employee Assistance Program.  Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 35 years of clinical experience, with 18 of those years at Vanderbilt.  The holidays are thought of by some as the happiest time of the year, while for others, it is much more challenging.  Maybe it is the challenges of family, or lack of family, financial pressures, or the pressures of society and advertisers telling us how we ought to feel.  For all of those reasons, it might be good to plan ahead, to become more "holiday resilient."  Jim, can you tell our listeners - what does it mean to be resilient in general?

Jim Kendall:  Being resilient is having the ability or capacity to bounce back after there has been some challenge in life.  I think many people believe that the holidays pose a challenge.  I kind of think of the first and strongest part of resilience is having the ability to be optimistic, and I think every year we are optimistic that this year it might be different, this year is going to be a wonderful holiday season, but usually that means that we have to be realistic, because optimism isn't always that you get what you want, but rather, you are able to figure out how can I get something that is good enough, that works for me?  I think holidays always pose a challenge, but one of the key aspects to resilience, as well as holidays, is often about nurturing social connections, and I think when you are thinking about your holidays, you want to intentionally make some choices about who will actually nurture your life and who might take some away from it.  And we may not always have the choice.  I love my family, and sometimes I can be around family and it feels fantastic, and sometimes it can feel like I am back as a child again.  So, depending on what your circumstance is, and you usually know it, you want to figure out - how in the world can I plan for that and take small dosages?  And I guess the last thing I want to say about some of our attitude about this is - we need to think ... in November, it is a great time to think about gratitude, that as many things as we might struggle with, there are some things in our lives that we can be grateful for.  Many of us have the opportunity to do jobs that make a difference in people's lives or that we really can find meaning in, and we need to leave each day thinking about - what are the good things that I was able to do for people, or how did I make a difference?  And I think if you just think of three, studies have shown that you end up being happier, if every day you just write down three things that you are grateful for.  And I'd probably add - don't forget that, as you are going through your holiday season, you've got to have a lifestyle that allows you to have the energy to be able to deal with things.  So, the things that are important are making sure you are getting some movement around and making sure that you are getting good nutrition, because it is easy to just snack on things at holidays that you may love, but you may not need, and then finally, get enough sleep, because that is really the basis and foundation for how we are going to be able to handle some challenging times and bounce back from those that we are struggling with, and that is the way you have a resilient holiday.

Rosemary Cope:  With that in mind, I am going to take good care of myself while I see these holidays approaching.  I am going to take a check on my attitude and see what I can do with that and I am going to practice gratitude, also, in the midst of all of that and recognize the things and the gifts that I already have and give to other people, and this is going to help in my resilience as we go forward.

Jim Kendall:  Hopefully that means that your holiday will be one that isn't necessarily the Hallmark holiday, but it is one that you can enjoy and you can say, "Yeah, this was good."

Rosemary Cope:  If someone is feeling overwhelmed, Jim, are there resources available to help them?

Jim Kendall:  Absolutely.  We, at Work/Life Connections, are always happy to talk to folks and meet with them when you are struggling, and holidays can be a real time of struggling.  So, please give us a call.  We have a confidential service.  It's at no charge to you as an employee.  So, just give us a call at 936-1327 and that's in the 615 area code.

Rosemary Cope:  Thank you all for listening.  If you have a story suggestion, please email it to us at or you can use the "Contact Us" page on our website at