Tuesday, November 24, 2009

#101 - Coping with the Holidays

It's that time of year again ... the holiday season is officially underway. Black Friday and CyberMonday are just around the corner and those frozen turkeys have already started to thaw. Every major airport is gearing up for a mass exodus right now. Even here in my bustling campus community, a familiar melancholy has quietly crept over the town today as the majority of 10,000 students head out for the Thanksgiving break. This seems like an opportune time to share a few quick tips to help maintain focus and keep this season bright.

Try to Be Realistic

Reality is unavoidable. The reality of the holidays for some includes too much to do and not enough time to do it, or too much to purchase and not enough money, or too much to eat and not enough willpower. Others experience not enough family, fun or friendship. Fighting against the reality of your life at this moment will not help raise your spirits. Instead, simply be kind to yourself, laugh at yourself whenever you can, seek support and decide to make positive changes during a less stressful time.

Work with What You Have
Families grow and change, and traditions do as well. If you had a stay-at-home mother as a child, you may try to reproduce an exact old-fashioned holiday, but it really is OK to infuse today’s holidays with your own version of meaning, beauty and love. If you are divorced, share the holidays with your ex with as much generosity and harmony as you can conjure. It’s the best gift you can give your kids. If you are single (like me) and far away from family, invite other singles into your home. You can give the words "extended family" a whole new meaning.

Be Financially Responsible
Don't close your eyes the next time you use that credit card. Overspending during the holidays increases your stress now and leaves you feeling anxious for months afterward as you struggle to pay the bills. Buck the old holiday system of excessive gift-giving. Practice simplicity, creativity and basic human kindness. Those are very real gifts in these troubled times.

If a friend or family member has recently died or if you're far away from those you love, practice the lost art of grieving. Gather pictures; light candles for someone you lost; play music to spark memories, and allow yourself to cry, remember, work through it and heal.

Forgiveness is the best medicine to heals broken spirits. Forgive everyone this holiday season—people from your past, your job, your family and even those in the news or government you love to hate. Read a great book about someone (like Martin Luther King, Jr.) who used forgiveness to move mountains. He did it and so can you.

Everything. Love these hard times and all the cranky, crooked people in the world. Most of all, love yourself, including all of your shortcomings.

Seek Professional Help If You Need It
These tips may help if you feel some occasional stress or sadness over the holidays.
Vacations and seasons don’t have to mean depression or even a momentary bout with the blues. If you do, however, experience a period of more than two weeks of persistent sadness, crying spells, sleep problems, feelings of guilt or thoughts of suicide, you could be clinically depressed. Don't hesitate to seek support or medical care.

Remember, you are always the very best gift!

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