Don’t Just Survive the Holidays, Enjoy Them

It’s that time of year again. The displays of small potted Christmas Trees and poinsettia greet you at the front of the supermarket. There are candy canes and ornaments overflowing in the aisles of the pharmacy. Blue and white candles for the Hanukkah menorah and little gold bags of chocolate coins for dreidel games sit on display. I think you can divide most Americans into one of two camps. No, not Republican or Democrat.

There are the “I love this time of year!” people, and the “Oh, no, not this again!” people.

Christmas and Hanukkah are as much or maybe even more about tradition than they are about religion. In your family maybe it’s the tradition to open gifts on Christmas Eve or one gift on each night of Hanukkah. Maybe you love Christmas music, but don’t let yourself listen to it until after Thanksgiving. Maybe you decorate your house in blue and white twinkly lights.

I’m sure not all your traditions bring up happy memories and comforting feelings, though. This time of year also brings traditions we wish weren’t traditions at all. Fights with your significant other over how to deal with passive-aggressive in-laws, anxiety about how many calories are in that glass of eggnog you’re drinking, stress about what to get for whom and how much money it’s going to cost you.

So how do you hold onto the good things you like about this time of year, and get rid of all the things you hate?

In my work as a marriage and family therapist, I see many people who ask me that question. Like everything in life, there’s no such thing as all good or all bad. While I can’t offer a magic solution to get rid of in-laws or make all sugary treats delicious and calorie-free, what I can offer are some ideas for how to get more of the good, and less of the bad.

1. Make a list of the things that you usually do this time of year that you enjoy.

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