It’s that time of year again. The holidays.  Some people enjoy them but many others dread, fear, and resent them.  If you dislike the holidays, you are not alone!

Do you try so hard every year to have a good time — be full of love, joy, peace, and happiness but in the end, you just can’t seem to do it?
Do you end up feeling alone or sad or depressed?

You want to enjoy the holidays but you just can’t figure out how.  Here are 5  tips for changing your view of the holidays and getting through them with ease:

1.The Fantasy — The media does an excellent job of bombarding us with images of the perfect holiday. People look their best in fancy clothes with smiles on their faces and well maintained bodies. Families are large and everyone is laughing, singing, and just enjoying each other. Children are happy, smiling, playing and just thrilled about everything related to the holidays. The food on the table is plentiful and perfectly cooked and displayed. Even pets are well groomed and happy to be part of the festivities. The point is — it’s mostly a fantasy. And, as we all know, fantasies are not real. Most families just don’t look like this at all. Real families are often messy, dysfunctional, conflictual, and far from the perfect image that is portrayed in the media.

Tip #1: Remember that everything you see on the television, movies, magazines, advertisements is just an illusion. Don’t think that everyone else experiences the holidays like these fantasy families.

2.  The “Shoulds” — Our society fills the holidays with expectations of what everyone “should” think, do, feel, need, want, etc. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for most people to meet these expectations. Here are some ideas of some of the “should” messages we get:
* Love all members of your family and want to be with them.
* Be excited and happy about all the good cheer and joy.
* Don’t have any anxiety or sadness during the holidays.
*Be filled with love and gratitude for yourself and for others.
*Volunteer your time and money to help others who are less fortunate than you.
*Be in a festive party mood whenever you are expected to be.

Tip #2 : There are actually NO “shoulds.” Don’t try to be someone other than yourself. It’s okay if you struggle with any of the above stated expectations (or others). It is completely unrealistic for anyone to meet all those “shoulds” because life is often complicated and stressful.

3.  Family of Origin Regressions — Many people spend time with family members during the holidays. Whether they are immediate or extended family members, you probably have some sort of history with them. That history may include some past conflicts, painful feelings, or unresolved issues. What often happens when we get together with family is we resume our past roles, regardless of how old we are. For example, even though you are an adult, when you get together with your family, you end up feeling like the baby of the family again, no matter how hard you try not to. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean some of those unresolved feelings magically disappear.

Tip #3: Remember the power of the regression. When you are with family, try to maintain the adult self you have become when interacting with others. Be conscious of how you interact with some family members.  If you end up feeling like a child, don’t despair. Resist getting pulled into a regressive dynamic!

4.  Alcohol Use — Holiday parties and gatherings almost always involve the consumption of alcohol. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating with alcohol but too often, people overindulge, thereby increasing certain risks. We all know how difficult and uncomfortable it can be when someone at a party drinks too much and acts inappropriately. No one is his/her best self when inebriated. This inappropriate behavior can have lasting consequences with family, friends, coworkers, or colleagues. Also, it is important to remember that alcohol is a depressant so you will exacerbate any underlying feelings of sadness or depression if you drink too much.

Tip #4: Go ahead and have an alcoholic drink if you prefer. Just be mindful of how much you drink. And, remember that you will likely make an unfavorable impression on others if you drink too much, period.

5.  Consumerism — There is no denying that we live in a capitalist society. During the holidays, we buy extravagant gifts, silly gifts, useful gifts, gift cards, toys, food, alcohol, etc. Shopping for the perfect gift and spending ALOT of money is the norm for most. It becomes very stressful and expensive. Some people put all the gifts they purchase on a credit card that they pay over the next year. Simply put, we spend too much money and lose sight of what’s really important.  We are easily influenced by what others are doing or the fantasy of what others are doing.

Tip #5: Don’t get caught up in a buying spree just because it’s the holidays. Remember that most of us buy too much “stuff.”  If you are buying a gift because that’s what you’re supposed to do, stop and think first. Do you really want to do this? Why? Are you spending more than you can afford? Why? Is there something else you can give that doesn’t require money — a home baked good, time together doing something fun, promise to do a chore?