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Tis the season to be jolly

Some regional radio stations have been playing Christmas music for a month. A few Christmas trees have been in evidence. Christmas merchandise has been on display since before Halloween. And that seemed to some of us to be jumping the gun a bit. Now, these few days into December, everyone is pulling out the stops. I even saw The Grinch popping out of a chimney.

Everywhere you go, any TV channel you watch, every store, there are sales ads for all the things your loved ones need.

Someone recently mentioned that her son was into minimalist living and she was cleaning out things she didn’t need because she liked her son’s idea about having less. Another someone had a plan to make gifts for everyone on her lengthy list. She started in January but life became so full she didn’t make a lot of progress, and is too far behind to catch up now. There are at least 20 people on her list. She decided just to do her best. As her mom always said, “It’s the thought behind the gift that counts.”

“I just want to get the holidays behind me,” another said, her voice soft and low. She did not elaborate but the expression on her face said it all.

The holidays can be overwhelming, frustrating. Indeed, life in general is chaotic. How many people struggle through this time of the year? What can you do to cope with holiday stress, holiday blues?

First, don’t disregard your feelings that define who you are. If you are struggling, listen to your intuition and take a realistic look at why you feel the way you do. Sometimes it’s all too easy to hide away from everyone and keep your own company, but isolation and loneliness won’t be much help.

Volunteering is a viable consideration. It will take your attention away from your problems and place it on other people who appreciate the kind attention. The gift of reaching out to others, to help them, can come back to you in unexpected ways.

The reality of life is that nothing is perfect. It doesn’t have to be. Problems come up. Things you might desire or regret may prevent the outcome you are looking for. Christmas, the season of love and family, isn’t a blanket deal, one-size-fits-all. Family traditions change. Using some creative thinking, you can still find ways to enjoy the precious hours of your life. Sometimes it’s necessary to just accept people as they are and set aside the issues until after the holidays so you can enjoy the decorations, your traditions and all of those things that bring wonder to the eyes of children this time of year. Children. Children have to be the most forgiving of human beings, to love so unconditionally regardless of the flaws of the people they love.

It’s a romantic thought, filling the space under and around the Christmas tree with pretty packages with red velvet bows. But you can’t buy happiness with things. Your presence – not presents – may be just the tonic that you provide: your smile, your sense of humor, your stories, you. You may provide the perfect, priceless gift this holiday season just by being there.

Baking? Gift-making? Decide when you want to do all of those things you think you have to do and formulate a plan for specific times, then stick to it so you don’t end up trying to do everything the day before Christmas.

Instead of accepting every invitation because you feel obligated, learn to say no when you needto. Be reasonable about the amount of time you can give and take time for you to relax and enjoy the season instead of stressing over it. Everyone has the same 24 hours a day. Every single minute doesn’t have to be spent rushing around to get things done, to just be in the moment. It is not wrong for you to take a little time for yourself … a bubble bath, listening to your favorite music or sitting down to read that book you’ve been meaning to get to.

If you feel that you just can’t cope without help, don’t hesitate to ask. Talking to a professional therapist may be the gift you need to get past your holiday issues.

Tis the season to be jolly not melancholy. That’s an issue for January after all of the glitter and lights have been put away for another year. We can talk about seasonal affective disorder (SAD) next month.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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