Deck the halls; light the menorah; get time off work. It's time for togetherness and warm fuzzies, food, drink and charity, hugs and singalongs. Feel the love.
It's not always like that, of course. We're stressed about money and the right gifts, or obliged to see family we might not adore. Or maybe we're alone. And everyone else seems so freakin' happy.
How to get through it?
My big insight is that we tend to have less patience with our loved ones than we do with complete strangers. I know sometimes there are real reasons for this, but the offending behaviour is often so minor: Mom gives a look or makes one of her comments about your weight/wife/cooking and, next thing you know, blind rage.
We could all learn to be more indulgent of those we're close to. Just saying.
What the experts say
"Make this season a very present, moment-to-moment occasion. Live at the level of the soul and bring meaning to each situation and beauty to each interaction. See people for who they are, honour their gifts and acknowledge the love you have for others. If you're not in touch with your earth birth family, use the season to find your true soul pod, those you naturally connect with. Family is about people we connect with from the heart. If you're alone, create your own day of ritual to honour the year and all of its lessons: the ups, the downs and the growth. In what moments was your heart open, and when did you feel truly alive? Create an altar with pictures of people who have meaning for you. Realize how you treat yourself, and find your path to happiness. With all the holiday noise, the silence you can have by yourself is golden."
JOHN GERMAINE LETO and EDEN CLARK, life coaches, Laguna Beach, California
"Think about why you're going home for the holidays. Do you feel it's your duty? If so, why do you feel dutiful? Maybe because your parents brought you up and fed you for 18 years. If that's the case, show thankfulness. That makes you not sweat the small stuff: you're going home for a purpose. At work we deal with people we don't like and somehow get the job done. If the brother you hate is coming, send a note in advance and say, ‘I know we've had tense moments; I hope we're going to enjoy the meal together.' Incorporate pleasant memories from the past into the present. This is a time to change our attitudes."
RUTH NEMZOFF, author, Don't Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws Into Family, Brandeis Women's Studies, Waltham, Massachusetts
"We tend to spend more time indoors, so vitamin D supplements can improve mood. L-Tryptophan, the amino acid that produces serotonin, can be helpful with sleep and mood; it's in a lot of protein-rich foods, like turkey. Hypnosis may help alleviate holiday depression by integrating the subconscious and conscious mind. Tonglen is very powerful - a beautiful Buddhist meditation that opens the heart. You breathe in Red, Dark, Hot and breathe out White, Light, Cool. You're breathing in all the badness, but while these things normally create emotional arousal or discomfort, instead you're at peace, with gentle compassion. You breathe it in without pain, knowing that you are a powerful and loving creature. The act of breathing itself purifies the energy, and when you exhale you send goodness, love and compassion to the world."
NICOLE WRIGHT, hypnotherapist, San Francisco
"If we view the holidays as [primarily] a break, we're less likely to be disappointed. Take a look at the triggers that have made you feel unhappy. Is it family conflict, being overscheduled, feeling ashamed of your eating or drinking habits? Scale back your expectations and commitments. If people approach this as a break and say, ‘I'm going to replenish myself and do a few obligation things and also do a really nice thing for myself,' they'll be far happier over the holidays. A lot of the problem is really about the disruption of routine. Keep as regular a schedule as you can."
COLLEEN CARNEY, professor, department of psychology, Ryerson U, Toronto
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