By Nikki Kontz

This holiday season, being present, instead of giving presents, could be the best gift you give yourself and others.

During  the weeks leading up to schools’ holiday breaks, calls typically increase on our crisis hotline.

Our callers are teens, who simply need a listening ear to help them feel like they’re not alone. They’re stressed about finals, relationships, friendships and family obligations that occur during the holiday season.

We know from research that feeling connected to friends, family, and even other caring adults protects us from feeling isolated and alone. It may even protect someone from feeling like giving up.

Here are three tips to surviving the holidays:

  1. Check in.Your parents and friends have a lot on their minds this time of year. So do you. Be sure to make time to check in with those you love. Share how you are doing and don’t be afraid to ask about them.
  1. Be Present.Sometimes the biggest gift we can give is spending time with those we love. Being in the same room with someone isn’t enough. Show you are listening by putting down electronics or stopping other tasks to focus on what the other person is saying.
  1. Strengthen Relationships. The holiday season is the perfect time to strengthen relationships with family members, close friends, other teens and adults who are a healthy influence in your life. Spend time with the people you care about and practice listening to them and sharing your thoughts and ideas.

Be aware that breaks from school can leave some feeling like their social support network has disappeared. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others if you’re feeling particularly isolated during winter break. Parents, family members and friends can all help you feel more connected. And, by reaching out, you may be the connection a friend needs to feel more hopeful about the future.

If you are struggling, or if you’re worried about a friend, call the Teen Lifeline at (602) 248-TEEN (8336) or (800) 248-TEEN. The 24/7/365 service is staffed by teen peer counselors daily from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m., even on holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Day.

You can also text a peer counselor at (602) 248-8336 between the hours of 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. every day of the year.

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