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Making the holidays happy

The most wonderful time of the year? Not to the people who use just three adjectives to describe the holidays: high-tension, high-cost and high-obligation. In fact, when asked to rank the stress of the season, 40 percent of respondents to one poll put the holidays in the same league as asking the boss for a raise. Still, it’s possible to recapture the meaning of the holidays.

  • Pooh-pooh perfection. Dashed expectations can cause a holiday crash, so keep them reasonable.
  • Stay healthy. Holiday season is an open invitation to de-stress—the wrong way. Too much food and drink and too little sleep can take a toll. So continue to be mindful of your mental and physical well-being.
  • Go with the flow. Holiday traditions evolve over the years. While you may be disappointed if you can’t quite reenact your celebrations of yore, find pleasure in creating and sharing new traditions.
  • Make room for sadness. Or loneliness. Sometimes unpleasant memories or the loss of a loved one puts a damper on the season. Jot those feelings down in a journal or confide in a close friend. Take solace in religious rites or community events you find significant.
  • Accept family members for who they are. Holiday gatherings are not the time to refuel arguments or rehash political differences. Instead, cherish the opportunity to be together.
  • De-emphasize the material. Give more gifts that don’t necessarily come off a store shelf: babysitting time for your niece, a homemade object for your son, a trip to the museum with your grandchildren. And make it known that you don’t expect expensive gifts yourself.