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Sheree Gallagher, Psy.D.
Michael Bridgewater, Ph.D.
Swen Helge, PhD (1975-2010)
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Summer 2011
Spring 2010
Holidays
Fall 2009


DE-STRESS THE HOLIDAYS

Most of us look forward to this time of year with the approach of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The holidays are a time for spending extra time with family, friends, and food.  However, it is also a time we can become frenzied and stressed-out if we let obligations overshadow the true meaning of our celebrations.

Remember, Thanksgiving is a time to recall the blessings of this year.  Christmas is a time to celebrate Christ's birth.  Everything else may be fun and exciting, but also can be a distraction.

Here are some ways to slow down, de-stress, and decide to truly celebrate:

  1.  Limit your commitments to what is essential - family, work, school, church, etc.
  2.  Set your calendar early so you do not become overcommitted.
  3.  Set a budget for spending and stick to it.
  4.  Enjoy the celebrations you have planned.
  5.  Relax afterward.

If we know in advance what we have planned, we can be better prepared.  Preparation reduces last minute stress.  If we keep a calendar (on the wall, in your purse, on the computer/phone, etc.) we can avoid over programming ourselves and our children.  If we stay within our budget, we will not feel guilty or suffer the consequences in January.

With this organization in place, we can focus on our celebration.  We can enjoy that celebration without worrying about the next engagement on the calendar.

We can take time to reflect on what we are truly thankful for: family, friends, food, daily provisions (home, car, job, etc.), and health.  We can reflect on the birth of Jesus and understand the symbolism of the gifts we give to others and create peace in our hearts and busy lives.

PARENT TALK

Spend some time this holiday season creating and continuing traditions with your children.  If you have family traditions in place, make time to engage in them without being rushed.  Talk about the meaning or special memories behind the tradition.

If you are looking for a new tradition consider these:

1.  Make a Thanksgiving tree and cut out fall colored paper leaves to hang on it.  Before hanging the leaves, have family members write something they are thankful for on each leaf.  Display the tree prominently in your home.

2.  Talk about what you are thankful for during dinner.  Remember even basic blessings, such as food you eat and clothing you wear every day.  Many of today's children take these things for granted.

3.  Select an angel from one of the various organizations sponsoring children in need.  Explain what the angel means and let your child assist in selecting presents for the angel.  Talk about caring and serving others.

4.  Sing Christmas carols together.  Talk about your favorite carol and the meaning of the words.

There are numerous other traditions families can do together (volunteer in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, bake Christmas cookies, open an advent calendar, light Advent candles).  The important part is enjoying the tradition as a family and talking about its meaning to your family.  Families of different faiths can adapt these ideas to their belief systems.

The Season of Giving

As the holidays approach we focus our attention on giving to others. This is an admirable characteristic to foster in our children.  Rather than thinking exclusively about “what I will get” or “what Santa will bring me,” we can help our children understand the blessings of giving. During the Christmas season there are numerous opportunities to help the less fortunate—the Salvation Army kettles, Marine Corps Toys for Tots, and the Salvation Army angel trees, to name a few.  Some angel trees offered by local churches and other organizations offer the opportunity to personally deliver the gifts.  What an experience for a child to see the face of another child as Christmas gifts are delivered to them. The gift of giving does not have to stop on December 25th.  It can become a year round experience.  Consider taking food to a local food bank or church benevolence ministry.   Encourage your children to go through their closets and game rooms twice a year and remove unused items to donate to charity.  Read about each charity with your child to understand the impact these gently used items can have on a family in need. Helping others teaches empathy, generosity, and selflessness—characteristics much different than the entitlement discussed in last quarter’s newsletter.

COMMUNICATION TIP


Not everyone looks forward to the holiday season.  Memories of loss during this year or years past can make feelings of sadness or depression recur or worsen.  We become particularly vulnerable when we feel tired, lonely, hungry, or angry.  Shorter, dark, or cloudy days, common during this time of year, also can contribute to these feelings.  Therefore, communication across and between family members during the holiday season is important.

Confide in a person you trust.  Talk to them about your sadness, loneliness, anger, and/or grief.  Explain how you do  not feel the joy of past years.  Simply expressing these thoughts and feelings out loud can provide some relief.

It is okay not to feel merry at Christmas.  Talking about it can help.  This may allow the joy to return with time.  If the sadness and/or grief become overwhelming or negatively affects your ability to function as your normally would during this holiday season, you might consider seeking therapy with a mental health professional.

Expressing Grief During a Time of Joy

Not everyone looks forward to the holiday season.  Memories of loss during this year or years past can make feelings of sadness or depression recur or worsen.  We become particularly vulnerable when we feel tired, lonely, hungry, or angry.  Shorter days or dark, cloudy days common during this time of year also can contribute to these feelings.  Therefore, communication between family members during the holiday season is important. Confide in that person you trust.  Talk to them about your sadness, loneliness, anger, and grief.  Explain how you do not feel the joy of past years.  Simply expressing these thoughts and feelings out loud can provide some relief. It is okay not to feel merry at Christmas.  Talking about it can help.  This may allow the joy to return with time.  If the sadness and grief become overwhelming or negatively affects your ability to function as you normally would during this holiday season, you might consider seeking grief counseling with a mental health professional.

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