Dear Liz,

This is the first Thanksgiving in a long time our families will be apart. We are all low on travel funds. And we’re bummed about that going into Christmas as well.

I’m struggling a lot because I’m usually the “make it happen” grandparent.

How can I keep the magic alive on a budget and from “afar?”

Still thankful

Dear “Still thankful,”

That’s the spirit. Counting our blessings with gratitude is a critical component of mental health. And has nothing to do with our bank account. Family conference about ideas and especially expectations. It’s best to explain to children (and yourself) “we are going to celebrate the holidays a little differently this year. It can still be fun and we all can participate and share love...” Kids are generally as OK as we are, so it is important we each do the self care necessary to be calm and a unified front (parents) around children. Kids overhearing blame and contention about money issues should be avoided of course. Go on walks or talk at times when they are not around if contention is likely. Teach and model being grateful for things you can’t buy in a store. Plan time to FaceTime or Skype where everyone can talk and share. Perhaps encourage each family to prepare a song or skit as part of the entertainment to share through cyberspace or phone lines. It is also appropriate to give children and teens a gift budget and ask them to really think about what they may want within that guideline. And soon because Christmas follows quickly after Thanksgiving this year. This also may be a year to see what is offered in our community and the communities of your families. Holiday themed activities and traditions are a good bet. There are many things that are free or low cost. Take videos or pix and share them. And also, make a plan for next year, which will be here soon enough. We all need things to look forward to. This is an opportunity to be creative. A great idea is for each family to participate in a meaningful service project in their communities. And share those experiences. Sharing the gift of service can be the most meaningful experience of all.

Dear Liz,

Is it me or is everyone having issues with the time change this year? Days of cold rain didn’t help either. I find myself down, low energy, lacking enthusiasm and not sleeping well. That is not my norm. I’m dragging going into the holidays and have lots to do as well. Help?

Not me

Dear “Not me,”

No you are not alone. I’ve been hearing that similar experience everywhere, even from young and old. People are complaining that even their pets aren’t adjusting as well. You do describe some classic signs of depression, so do keep an eye on yourself and don’t delay checking in with your doctor. The decrease in our exposure to daylight can cause seasonal depression. Staying balanced with good nutrition, exercise, rest and getting outside can help. Especially when we don’t feel like doing any of that. This year has been harder for me as well. So please, all, take care and keep moving. Grateful for every reader.

Contact Liz via Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.