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Lighten Up! It's Christmas

Emily Ballance, MEd, LPC

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Keeping Your Sanity and Your Sense of Humor during the Holidays

I was having lunch with a friend the other day and she said, "Well, it's holiday time again, the time of year when we spend time with people we're 'supposed to' like." Then she added, "and hope we have a few minutes left for the ones we do!"

Over the years, as a professional speaker and licensed professional counselor, I've pretty much heard it all. You don't have to tell me that your family doesn't look like the picture on a Hallmark card and your Thanksgiving table doesn't look like Martha Stewart's.

In real life, most people feel stressed around holiday time. Here are some suggestions to help you reduce the stress, keep your sense of humor, and share some joy:

1. Lighten up with laughter. Make time for fun activities with people you love - especially the ones who make you laugh! Our long to-do lists and many obligations of this season often overshadow the true meaning and the joy.
2. Ask the question. Stop agonizing over the perfect gift for close friends and family members. Here's how to hit a homerun: Ask them what they want. How many "white elephants" do you have stuck in the back of a closet? Probably a herd! Most came from wonderful people who thought they knew just what you wanted. Save time and worry for everyone - ask! You may find that instead of a gift, the preference is a donation to a favorite charity.
3. Share a cup of tea. In the midst of all that is going on in our lives, people around us are dealing with their own issues. Why not stop and have a cup of tea with that friend who has had a recent loss? Perhaps, you can call someone one who is struggling with depression or health problems. We've all been there in one way or the other. Listening is such a wonderful gift.
4. Expect the unexpected. Leave some unplanned time in your schedule to deal with casseroles dropped on the floor, fighting family members, overcooked turkeys, Christmas trees that fall down, disappointed children, and dogs that forget their inside manners - among other things. Something weird or unexpected is bound to happen and, if you're lucky, it'll be funny!

I once read a magazine article about the Butterball Turkey Helpline, where you can call with questions about cooking a turkey. It said the people who work there have to take all the questions seriously, no matter how ridiculous they sound. Apparently one day a woman called in because her Chihuahua had jumped into the cavity of her Thanksgiving turkey and gotten stuck! And she wanted to know how to get him out - without cutting the turkey! Which makes you wonder, was she just going to serve it with dog hair in there or what?

Yep, you just gotta laugh! May your holidays be filled with laughter and warmth and love - and no dog hair!

Copyright © Emily Ballance 2008

For a list of "25 Ways to Make Your Holidays More Fun and Meaningful." visit Emily's Web site www.emilyballance.com and click on "Fun Stuff."

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