It is my habit every late November, in partnership with InSync Training, to offer a live-online session called “Holiday Stressbusters.” It’s not holiday-specific; there are dozens of holidays—many involving gift-giving, traveling, visiting family, etc.—between November and January. (I still joke that my own favorite winter “holiday” is in celebration of the December day I finished graduate Statistics.)

The focus is less on me presenting and more on amassing participant ideas for managing everything from emotions to money to having college kids home for an extended break. My “nuts and bolts” lesson from this is the annual reminder that much of our learning comes from resurfacing existing knowledge. Participants often already have their own best answers; in regard to dealing with holiday stress, they just need to remember to watch for and recognize their triggers and take the action that is best for their own well-being. After the session, I collate the participant text chat and send it to them as their class handout. (Here’s the one from 2017. There are some you-had-to-be-there comments but it otherwise should be fairly easy to follow.)

All the talk of gifts always reminds me of a favorite I received back in 2002-ish. I was training director for a mid-size state government agency, and that year the office participated in a Secret Santa game. The HR recruiter who got my name gave me the perfect gift for a classroom trainer: a basket filled with three dozen brand-new Mr. Sketch markers. I loved it and remember it as one of the best gifts I ever received, largely for the obvious thought that had gone into it.

Then a few years later, I got involved in a Facebook conversation about gifts appropriate for a teenage boy, a demographic with which I am decidedly unfamiliar. That evolved into people asking, “What can I give my elderly dad?” and, “What can I give someone who loves to travel?”, then further into ideas for gifts for cooks, athletes, gardeners, musicians… you get the idea. That continues to be updated every year in our shared Google Doc, which I curate into an annual Pinterest board of standout suggestions. And learning-related gifts for ourselves and others has become a popular topic each year in one of our weekly #lrnchat conversations ( or on Thursdays at 8:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm PT, Fridays 12:30 pm AEDT).

When The eLearning Guild let it be known that they were planning a holiday gift guide for the Guild community I jumped at the chance to help with it. So here you go: See our new eBook, the L&D Gift Guide. It includes suggestions from our community members for gifts ranging from office tools to software, subscriptions, and memberships. There are ideas for designers, people interested in photography, video, podcasting, and AR/VR. There are suggestions for travelers, those with an artistic bent, and a general category for “toys” (but you can always justify those as “research”).

I tried to keep the eBook focused on tangibles that would be useful to L&D practitioners, and I stayed carefully away from anything that might be controversial (except the no-this-other-pencil-is-better opinions). Among the items that didn’t make it into the guide are the many comments from people who said they didn’t want anything for themselves but asked that those interested in gift-giving donate instead to charities.

Many people, when asked what they’d like, said, “Time.”

But back to the online “Holiday Stressbusters” class. Many participants speak about the challenge of keeping sight of what their particular holiday really means to them. For some there is religious meaning; for some, a time to reconnect with family and friends or just a break from work. For others it is a time of reflection, and sometimes loneliness or sadness. Young parents often speak of the desire to create some new traditions special to their own family. While the conversation is largely meant to help participants recall what they already know, people do sometimes share things that spark a new idea for the others in class. The most poignant of these came from a woman whose family, the previous year, faced their first winter holidays without a beloved grandmother. The children decorated a stocking for her and hung it on the mantel with the others. They filled the stocking with notes to grandma, each describing an event they wish she had witnessed, a school play she would have loved, a moment in which they missed her and thought she would be entertained or proud. She was still included, and not forgotten, and helped the children understand that for their family the holiday they celebrated—in this case, Christmas—was about more than unwrapping presents.

Whatever your own plans for the upcoming winter holiday season, I hope you are able to similarly find the meaning you want it to have and the joy and relaxation you deserve.

See you next year!