Local storefront surrounded by potted flowers

See the incredible chain of positive effects when you shop locally

Plus, where and how to support local businesses this Small Business Saturday and throughout the year.

Charlotte Shaff of Phoenix owns a public relations company, The Media Push, that specializes in promoting small businesses. She knows firsthand what a difference they can make: Not only is she a business owner, but her parents owned a landscaping and nursery business as she was growing up.

“Small business owners feel much more passionate about what they do and what they offer because they know their family and their livelihood is the bottom line,” Shaff said.

As we approach Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25—and a busy shopping season over the next few months—read how, why and where to support small local businesses right here in Phoenix.

Local cash helps local communities

Two-thirds of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the community, helping to strengthen the local economy.

“Ninety percent of Arizonans work for a company or business or nonprofit that has fewer than 50 employees,” said Kimber Lanning, CEO of Local First Arizona, which educates consumers about the benefits of shopping locally, among other missions.

Lanning, the owner of Phoenix-based Stinkweeds Records since 1987, formed the group in 2003 when cities were giving away massive subsidies to formula retailers. Local First Arizona successfully fought for a number of measures that would support and keep more local businesses that residents treasure.

“When we started there were two chain restaurants for every one local restaurant and now the opposite is true,” Lanning stated. “I think we played a big role in that.”

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Chef making pizza in a restaurant kitchen.

Customers, employees get more

Shopping from a small business often offers advantages directly to customers as well.

You’re not going to get a hand-fired pizza with locally grown and made ingredients at most places, but you will at Myke’s Pizza inside Cider Corps taproom in Mesa. Owner Myke Olsen, a Mesa native, said he sources greens from Steadfast Farm and flour from Hayden Flour Mills.

He hones different pizza-making techniques to deliver a handmade, higher-quality product, rather than sending mass-produced crusts through a conveyor belt. His woodfired oven “takes months of experience to get where you can operate it during a busy period,” he said. 

Beyond that, Olsen noted that small-business owners are much more open to new ideas, and employees can express themselves and have more of a stake in a company’s success. When owners listen to staff, it not only enriches them and the business, Olsen said, but the customers then reap the benefits of innovation.

Culture, character, charities thrive 

Olsen is proud that he’s played a part in reviving Mesa’s city center, which has transformed from a sleepy strip to a bustling hub of bars, brewpubs, restaurants, shops, arcades, an arts center and more. 

Clusters of small businesses in areas like downtown Mesa, Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row and historic downtown Chandler, among many others, provide the “culture and character of a place,” as Lanning put it. 

Not to mention, small businesses donate 250% more than larger businesses to local non-profits and community causes, according to SCORE.

“They are much more ingrained in the local community,” Shaff said. “They’re much more inclined to support a local school or sports teams.”

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Artist presenting his pottery at a local farmer's market.

Seven ways to support local businesses on Small Business Saturday and all year long:

1. Expand your local shopping horizons. It’s not just about independent restaurants, boutiques and bookstores. Find a local auto repair shop, florist, massage therapist or mortgage lender. Use the Small Business Saturday directory and Local First Arizona’s online directory with everything from comic stores to escape rooms to winegrowers.

2. Buy gift cards. Many offer incentives around the holidays, like an extra $10 card if you buy $50. Bonus: You might even turn on a friend or relative to a cool place they never knew about. 

3. Attend festivals. From fall through spring, Phoenix is overflowing with festivals and fairs, most of which feature local artisans who make everything from food and drinks to art, jewelry, clothing and more. Go with an eye on gift-giving for holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.

4. Wear their merch. Local breweries and musicians usually have the coolest T-shirts and caps, and it’s a two-fer: You’re not only spending money on their products, but you’re a walking advertisement for your beloved bands and brands.

5. Leave a review. Often, we’re tempted to post a review only when we’re irked, but next time you get great service, tell the world about it! Whether a garage door repair company came out after hours or your windows sparkled after a cleaning, those businesses appreciate you sharing your experience. 

6. Interact with your favorite businesses’ social media accounts. Commenting on their feed drives engagement and shows others that their customers are rooting for them.

7. Spread the word IRL and online. Word-of-mouth is still important, but you’ll reach a wider audience if you talk up a business on social media, both on your accounts and in groups. Are you sweet on your neighborhood ice cream shop? Do you think your veterinarian is the cat’s pajamas? Personal referrals are priceless because they’re from someone you know and trust. Remember to use the tag #ShopSmall.

“The easiest and free way to support a small business is to share the love on social media,” said Shaff of The Media Push.

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Distraught person lying on their couch next to a table of holiday desserts and a Christmas tree

Dallas mental health experts give advice on getting through 5 holiday “stress traps”

You're not alone if the holidays are hard for you.

Holiday happiness. It’s the thing we’re supposed to be swimming in by now. But for many, the holidays are a minefield, from money woes to family drama.

“There are a lot of societal expectations and media imagery about being happy this time of year,” said Joel Baskin, M.D., staff psychiatrist at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “So, if you’re feeling stressed and miserable, add onto that the feeling that somehow you’re doing it wrong.”  

Spoiler alert: You’re not doing it wrong. It’s a challenging time of the year for a lot of people. The key may not be finding a way to totally avoid stress. Rather, it’s all about learning to navigate stress in a way that makes life feel manageable. Maybe even jolly. 

A candle lit in the center of a cozy room.

1. Overcommitment and overwhelm

The holidays often bring fun and festivities, but that isn’t always a positive. Routines may go out the window. Work hours and responsibilities can change or increase. Family time can further squeeze our energy or schedules. 

Healthy navigation of overcommitment and overwhelm takes a toolbox of strategies, said Cassandra Holt Kimbell, MSEd, LPC, NCC, owner and lead therapist at Dallas-based Freestyle Therapy LLC

“One tool is learning how to create a mental calm space through grounding exercises that use the five senses,” Holt Kimbell said. “This can get you back in your body, and your coworkers won’t even know what you’re doing.”

She offered examples like keeping a scent close by that has positive associations, spending time feeling the hot water during handwashing, and even sticking your head in the freezer for a few moments. 

Other important tools include creating a realistic schedule that not only accommodates commitments but also includes dedicated downtime. That could mean scheduling proper amounts of sleep and making time for some form of movement — walking is ideal for boosting overall well-being. It goes a long way toward balancing unavoidable stressors. 

2. Money

One of the almost universally experienced stress traps during the holidays is money. Namely, needing more of it. Inflation makes the situation more difficult this year. The average family is spending about $700 more each month on the same goods and services compared to two years ago, according to Moody’s Analytics. Yikes. 

But with preparation, financial awareness doesn’t have to become financial fear. The first step is an assessment of resources and a plan for the season. Budgeting advice is everywhere; one option we like is cash stuffing (also known as the envelope system). This allows you to physically portion out your monthly income into different spending categories and plan accordingly. The hashtag #cashstuffing on TikTok offers a plethora of instruction and entertainment. The key idea is to avoid debt. 

Just thinking about money can be upsetting for many people, Holt Kimbell said. She suggests breaking down negative beliefs and thoughts on paper. 

“You can make a list of them — what are the things that are bothering me?” she said. “Break it down and look for the core belief that’s underneath the fear.” 

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3. Family Relationship

Managing challenging family situations and relationships requires a thoughtful approach all year. During the holidays, when expectations and events often increase, there’s an added dimension. 

For some people, the challenge comes from loss, said Dr. Baskin. 

“Many people are dealing with recent losses and bereavement or the end of a relationship through divorce or a breakup,” he said. 

For others, historical or current family dysfunction creates holiday stress. When facing this kind of dynamic during the holidays, one word can make all the difference: boundaries. They are part of self-care and create clarity. 

For Holt Kimbell, boundaries establish limits on the time and emotional energy needed for any interaction. As the saying goes, “No is a complete sentence.” 

“We need to remember that people treat us how we teach them to,” Holt Kimbell said. “For example, some people are stressed because family won’t stop texting or they worry they’ll be mad about something, pick the time of day when you’ll be the calmest to deal with it.” 

Taking time to decompress is also essential. Go back to that schedule you created and make sure there’s time for self-reflection and activities you want to do. Additionally, don’t hesitate to seek free mental health services in Dallas to talk about your feelings and get support and perspective.

4. Overindulgence

During the holidays, overindulging in food and alcohol is a tempting stress trap — delightful in the moment, perhaps problematic in the long run. 

“You can look at overindulgence as a thermometer of your emotional state,” Holt Kimbell said. 

Now is the time to double down on self-care and coping skills. That’s because overindulgence may be a response to stress, loneliness, or other emotional challenges.

By paying attention to what’s bothering you, you can address the root causes rather than relying on excess consumption as a coping mechanism. That awareness shines a light on feelings and creates an opportunity to pause and consider the choices at hand. 

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A broken Christmas tree ornament.

5. Sadness and anxiety

Free-floating sadness and anxiety are common during the holidays, Dr. Baskin said. There are ways to manage stress so it doesn’t develop into a diagnosable condition. 

“This time of year, it’s easy to let go of things we do on a regular basis to maintain health, like going to the gym or going for a walk,” he said, noting that exercise is an evidence-based way to boost overall mood, promote everyday health, and help with quality sleep. 

Although adding more activities might seem counterintuitive, Holt Kimbell recommends looking through Meetup.com for volunteer opportunities. Doing something meaningful with like-minded people can offer a big mood boost. Meetup is also a great resource for other stress-reducers, like meditation classes, mindfulness groups, and sound healing, for example.

When is it time to get professional help? “If you’re experiencing problems that impair functioning — work, family, or emotional regulation — those are reasons to seek professional help,” Dr. Baskin said. “We all could potentially benefit from counseling, for example, to manage stress.” 

For those with sub-par or no health insurance, there are options. Some income levels will qualify for services through the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority. Veterans should also check their eligibility for the VA, said Dr. Baskin, who also serves as the assistant chief of psychiatry of the Primary Care–Mental Health Integration Team at the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“Over the last several years, there have been several large expansions of eligibility for care,” he said. “We want veterans to come see us.” 

Holt Kimbell offers several group options, including one planned for January, the “Let That Sh** Go” workshop. It can help decompress after the holidays with writing, yoga, and group therapy.

In the case of acute distress, there is now a National Suicide Crisis Line in the U.S., 9-8-8, which is available by text, too.

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Couple Glamping Near a Lake in the Fall

5 ways to create the staycation of your dreams in and around Atlanta

Get the rest and relaxation you want right here in your own backyard.

Want a getaway without actually having to get away? If you’ve got some PTO to burn or simply want a long weekend to escape the grind, there are plenty of ways to simulate the vacation experience in and around Atlanta, from spa-days to road trips to idyllic areas nearby. During the holiday season or throughout year, toss your to-do list to the side and get out of your element while saving some time and money.

Find incredible nature nearby

If you feel like a dose of nature, Georgia offers an abundance of National Parks, nature reserves, trails and bodies of water to peruse. 

Take a trip to Vogel State Park, located at the base of the Blood Mountain, and travel through Neel Gap to Brasstown Bald—the highest point in the beautiful state of Georgia. If you’re looking for an impressive water feature, see a stunning 729-foot waterfall at Amicalola Falls State Park, where you can also enjoy a rustic cabin stay or luxe hotel resort, many with incredible scenic views. It’s even possible to sample something close-to-home in Sweetwater Creek National Park, offering miles of serene wilderness (and excellent fishing spots) just miles away from the city. 

In fact, you don’t even need to leave Atlanta—it’s known as the “city in the forest” for a reason, with trees providing a canopy throughout the greater metro area. Wildlife enthusiasts, grab your binoculars and visit Blue Heron Nature Preserve in North Buckhead, where three miles of distinct habitats are home to a stunning mix of creatures, from butterflies to turtles and, of course, the Great Blue Heron. Nestled in Atlanta’s Cascade Heights, the Cascade Springs Nature Conservancy features springs, waterfalls and 250-million-year-old rock formations. Constitution Lakes is a decidedly unique experience, thanks to the playful (or creepy, depending on your thoughts) Doll Head Trail, where found items, including abandoned doll parts, dot the scenery. 

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Relax at the spa or create an experience at home

Is your perfect idea of a vacation to pamper yourself? Jeju Sauna is a Korean bathhouse with various kinds of dry and wet saunas including rooms that utilize crystal, clay, charcoal and pink Himalayan Sea salt rooms, each offering their own healing purpose. Open 24/7, Jeju also has a restaurant and services such as massages, manicures and pedicures for an extra fee. 

If your perfect getaway isn’t getting away at all, why not try a full spa day at home? Visit the beehive to find handmade-in-Atlanta soap, candles, linen sprays and a bath bombs from North/South Soap Company, or find one-of-a-kind candles from A Bearden Project with scents like Rose Garden, Moroccan Cashmere and Nature Walk. You can also stop by Atlo at Lee + White in the West End—a refill station where you can embrace the low-waste lifestyle with natural home and body products like shampoos, conditioners, body oils and more. Many of the products are produced by local Atlantans. 

Take an easy road trip

If a pricey plane trip isn’t on your agenda, you can still travel a few hours out of the city to explore something new while not venturing too far. Helen, Georgia will transport you with scenic outdoor views and Bavarian-style architecture, where among the quaint buildings you’ll find beer crawls, candy and fudge shops and plenty of boutiques. If your tastes run a bit more gothic, try Savannah, Georgia with pristine parks and centuries-old live oaks that frame hip eateries, moody speakeasies and trendy shops. Or, visit any number of quaint centers close to Atlanta, like Marietta Square, where you’ll find a theater with films and live theater, a record shop, antique stores, boutiques, restaurants and farmers and artist markets to explore on weekends. 

Stay among the trees 

Take your glamping and camping up a notch by visiting one of the many spectacular rentals close to the city — with some that will quite literally elevate your overnight experience. A three-story treehouse retreat in Kennesaw is situated among the canopy and even offers a treasure-hunt so you can embrace your inner thrill seeker. For those seeking an adult summer camp experience, enjoy a treehouse in Suches featuring river-front views, an outdoor kitchen, private, spacious balconies and nearby trails to truly immerse yourself in nature. If “roughing it” isn’t in your vocabulary, there are plenty of options for upscale cabins that fuse hygge and modern amenities, like this gem in Tiger in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains — though you may feel like you’re in another country altogether. 

Stay and play right here in ATL

Atlanta is expansive, but you can cover more ground with a guided bike or scooter tour. Atlanta Street Art Tours is an excellent way to gain a new appreciation for the public art around the city, where you’ll hit notable murals while hearing details about the artists themselves and interesting details about the area. For those with a heart for history, Civil Bike Tours makes stops at Atlanta’s iconic civil rights locations. 

After you’re done touring the city, indulge in a stay at one of the many luxury and boutique hotels, from nationally acclaimed brands like the Ritz Carlton Atlanta, The St. Regis Atlanta, Waldorf Astoria Atlanta or the Four Seasons Atlanta to enjoy fine dining and plush amenities for a VIP experience. Or, if you’re looking for more Atlanta-specific stays, consider the Stonehurst Place, where “SoHo meets sweet tea” or The Kimpton Sylvan for beautiful views and a heavenly pool. 

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