This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page.

  December 4, 2000

Therapist Offers Advice for the Holidays

If you're expecting a picture-perfect holiday, chances are it's not going to happen, says Julian Ford, a clinical psychologist on the faculty of the psychiatry department at the Health Center.

"Look at your holiday expectations in a realistic manner. Otherwise you simply set yourself up for disappointment," he says. "Learn from previous experiences, and make changes that can bring about a positive difference in holiday situations that turned out badly in the past."

As for the hectic pace that usually accompanies the holidays, Ford says, don't let it get the better of you.

"This can be a wonderful time of the year," he says. "But if you put too many demands on yourself, you'll be looking forward to the end of the holiday season. And that's too bad, because the holidays we celebrate during this season can be special times for joy and renewal."

Ford offers the following advice to avoid holiday overload and make this a period of genuine peace, cheer, and good will.

  • Sleep, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. Plan quiet times with your friends and loved ones, and by yourself. These are the things that provide the power you need to keep going.

  • Take stock of your personal priorities and make sure they guide you in choosing how to spend your time, energy, and money this holiday season.

  • If your gift list is out of control, and you're spending too much time and energy looking for the "right gift," consider a gift certificate to a favorite store, restaurant or movie theater, or a donation to the recipient's favorite charity. Shop on the Internet or order from catalogs. Many companies will gift-wrap too. Take the time you save to do something relaxing for yourself.

  • Don't do it all yourself. Delegate! Do your share, but be creative and assertive in getting others to share in the chores, errands, gift-wrapping, card writing, etc. Do these tasks with someone else, not just by yourself.

  • Eat, drink, and party in moderation. Overdoing it can be physically depleting and may promote feelings of guilt.

  • Gift giving is not about money. Make every effort to stay within your budget, even if that means cutting down your list. Homemade foods and gifts are often more meaningful than fancy store bought items. Overspending will only create big bills, anxiety and guilty feelings.

  • Just say no - to that one more party you don't have time to attend; that one more decoration you don't have to hang; or that one more dessert you don't have to serve or eat.

  • Take a few moments every day to remember who and what are most precious in your life. If everyone around you is high-spirited and you're not, don't think that you are alone. "For some of us memories of past holiday seasons can be painful," says Ford. "Holiday blues are normal and temporary. Accept them but don't indulge. Take time to check your personal 'inventory' of unfinished feelings and memories - don't try to ignore them, but don't dwell on them. Plan to be with other people. Depression feeds on isolation.

"Above all," he says, "don't forget what the holidays are all about - sharing our love and faith with others."

Jane Shaskan