The holiday season is here, and for many of us it is a time of great joy…and also of great stress! You might just be wondering what gifts to buy or if your wallet can handle the expenses. You might be dreading an unwelcome annual visitor or a cross country trip on a day where snow may be an issue. You might be wondering if this year your cat will leave the tree alone. For some who may have lost loved ones, it is also a time of year for memories, sadness, and difficulty. Whatever level of intensity, importance or frivolity, few of us can avoid some kind of anxiety heading into the last weeks of the year.

Be Prepared

Unless you are hiding your head in the sand, you can’t escape the holidays. Even if you don’t participate, you will be inundated with commercials, music, decorations, well-wishers and party invitations. So, smile and be gracious. Even if you feel like Scrooge, don’t let your co-worker know that you really HATE that fruitcake, but thank him or her for thinking of you. ‘Tis the season to be jolly. Try it, you might like it!

Don’t Overextend

Gifts: You don’t have to spend a fortune on extravagant gifts. Nothing will make you stress out more than a pile of credit card bills hitting your mailbox in January. Think of simple, thoughtful things that you can buy or make. The worth of a gift is not defined by its cost but, rather, by the love and effort of the giver.

Meals: Don’t think you have to entertain with expensive meals, overpriced champagne or fine china. A warm ambiance, with good food and beverages and great company is way better than a stuffy old formal dinner party anytime! Besides, if you approach meals with fresh breath and having a clean tongue, anything will taste like a million bucks! 😉

Have Fun

Try to “get into the groove”. Go skating. Have a Christmas movie marathon party with tons of popcorn then string the leftovers for the tree or, better yet, for the birds! Make homemade cards with your kids. Sing carols. Memorize the music from The Grinch (and then don’t be one).

Dealing with Loss

One of the most difficult things to do if you have lost a loved one is to think about facing the holidays without that person, especially for the first time. The most important thing you can do is…whatever is right for YOU. Don’t let anyone who hasn’t walked in your shoes tell you how you should handle your feelings. And even some who “get” how you are feeling won’t understand how you want to handle this time of year.  Don’t force yourself to do anything that just exacerbates your sadness.

But if you are in such a situation and you have family that might be counting on you to participate in some way, try this tip: include the old but bring in some new. You might want to add a twist to an old tradition to create a new one. Can’t bring yourself to make the apple pie you used to make for dad? Make an apple crumble instead. Can’t bring yourself to put up every ornament on that room-sized tree you always had? Get a smaller tree, pick some favorite old ornaments and get a few new ones. And remember one thing. Only you will know what is best for you…there is no right or wrong way to deal with your feelings.

And if you can, try to find some joy in memories. As you weep, try to find a smile. Try to laugh, even a little, through your tears. Your grief will never go away, but maybe this time of year is one for reflection and joy, for love of those present in body and in mind. Try to remember how much your lost loved one hated that fruitcake your co-worker gives you every year 😊

Now go figure out how to keep the cat out of the tree (throw the fruitcake at it?) and have a wonderful holiday!🎄

How to Mentally Prepare for the Holidays