By Tim Peterson, MS, LMFT, LPC
Keep expectations manageable. Don’t try to make this holiday season “the best ever”. Set realistic goals for yourself, prioritize the most important activities, and pace yourself. Remember that the holidays don’t automatically dispel reasons for feeling sad or lonely, so it’s okay for you to have these feelings.
Let go of the past. Don’t make yourself miserable by thinking everything has to be just like the “good old days”. As life brings changes, each holiday season is different and should be enjoyed in its own way.
Avoid relationship conflicts. Make a commitment to set aside unresolved issues. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men.” Now is probably not the best time for problem-solving anyway. Try to accept family and friends as they are even if they don’t meet your expectations.
Enjoy holiday activities that are free. Drive around to look at holiday decorations. Go window-shopping without buying anything. Be sure to check out the Christmas pageants put on by local churches and schools.
Don’t overindulge. Excessive eating and drinking will only make you more depressed. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, a balanced diet, and regular exercise.
Enjoy time with supportive people who care about you. If you’re married, spend time at home with your spouse and children. If you’re single, enjoy the company of family and friends. If you’re alone, reach out to make new friends or contact an old friend with whom you’ve lost touch.
Make time for yourself. Don’t spend all your time providing activities for family and friends. Whether it’s taking a long walk or reading a good book, do something you enjoy.
Build your own family traditions. Along with making nice memories, family traditions enrich family identity and closeness, which helps reduce stress. There are dozens of fun and inexpensive ways to celebrate the season. So don’t be afraid to try something new.
Serve others without expecting a reward. Bringing joy or comfort to others gets the focus off yourself and has a way of lifting your spirit.
Remember the reason for the season. Taking time to reflect on the meaning or purpose of the holiday is the best way to prioritize your time and transform your holiday into a joyous celebration of hope.
TIM PETERSON is a Bright Tomorrows Board Trustee. Tim has his master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Northeastern State University and completed a two-year post-graduate program in Marriage & Family Therapy through the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Sciences. Tim has provided Christ-centered counseling in Tulsa since 1985 in private practice and as a program director for psychiatric and chemical dependency treatment programs at three local hospitals.