12 Sure-Fire Ways to Enjoy Any Holiday

A countdown guide for enjoying holidays

Posted Nov 26, 2011

Holidays are supposed to be fun, right? If so, then why do so many people feel run-down and dejected, if not outright depressed, during seasons of joy? Whether it's the Christmas-Chanukah-Kwanzaa time of year, the spring holidays of Easter and Passover, or just family celebration times, it seems that people have trouble making the most of these supposedly pleasurable occasions. Whatever the reason, or the season, here are ways to enjoy these special times of the year.

1. Enjoy the decorations, even if you don't have any yourself. Take pleasure in experiencing the lights, colors, menorahs, ornaments, and fripperies that adorn homes, lawns, stores, and cities. Don't let the grinches who complain that they are put up too early (or taken down too late) detract from the fact that winter's landscapes look a bit less drab when spruced up with spruce.  Even after the winter holidays are over, there are plenty of seasonal decorations to make you smile.

2. Manage your time wisely so you're not feeling panicky when a holiday draws near. In a previous posting, I wrote about how much you can accomplish in even 5 minutes if you set your priorities. Holiday planning takes place over a longer span, but the same principles apply. Decide on your goals and work backwards from there to figure out what you need to do and when. Procrastination will only make you miserable, so avoid unnecessary stress by thinking ahead.

3. Get plenty of sleep to boost your immune system, memory, and well-being.Your well-being is intimately tied up with the quality of your sleep. If you burn the yuletide or menorah candle at both ends, you'll find yourself too rundown to enjoy either holiday. Take advantage of good sleep habits and you will be in a better frame of both body and mind.

4. Keep up your exercise schedule to boost your resilience. Taking time to exercise may seem like the least logical way to get things done during a special holiday time, but the energy you gain from a great workout can spill over into the energy you have to put into your holiday planning. You'll also be in better shape and can afford a little bit more of survival tip #5...

5. Allow yourself to give into some temptation. Depriving yourself completely of all pleasures of the season could actually backfire.  Ego depletion theory says that if we exercise too much self-control in one area, all bets are off in others. Similarly, relapse prevention approaches to addiction treatment advocate building in a little back-sliding into your self-improvement programs. If you allow yourself a few luxuries, you won't feel so deprived and will find that it's actually easier to stay on track with your personal self-improvement projects.

6. Brush up on your small talk for family, neighborhood, or office get-togethers.People often dread parties and family gatherings because they fear they won't know what to say in a social situation. It only takes small steps to become a small-talk maven. Follow some of these simple guidelines to learn how to talk to almost anyone about almost anything. 

7. Get your work done so you can take a real break. If you plan your time wisely, you can take a guilt-free holiday hiatus. This may mean that you leave yourself a little extra time for cyber shopping, cooking and baking, wrapping presents (if that's called for), and just relaxing with family and friends. Give yourself goals for when you want to finish your tasks around the office or home and once you've accomplished those, you can afford a bit of a rest.

8. Mobilize your coping resources to manage stress. Recognize that stress comes in many forms and that the best way to cope with stress is to match your coping method with the particular form of stress you face. Some problems may seem small but loom large in your mental horizon. If you divide the problems you can solve from the ones you can't, your coping will be more effective. Cope with the problems you can fix by trying to fix them and the ones you can't by making yourself feel better about the situation.

9. Manage your alcohol intake. Holiday, birthday, and family festivities provide temptations (and excuses) to over-indulge in the "spirits" of the season. If you're trying to overcome alcohol addiction, it's a particularly difficult time. Carrying around a non-alcoholic drink at least gives you something to hold in your hand and makes it less likely that other people will try to fill your glass with whatever alcohol they're serving. Avoiding overindulgences will make it easier for you to sleep, manage your time, and accomplish your other holiday goals.

10. Take time to thank your co-workers, bosses, supervisees, and those who give you excellent service. You don't have to break the bank to thank or recognize the people you work with or care about. Little thoughtful (or even silly) gifts are all it takes to show your appreciation.

11. Resist high-pressure sales tactics so you can stick to your budget. Retailers are profiling you and figuring out what will work with you to close the deal. Once you know what they're up to, you'll be better prepared to make decisions based on what you want, not on what they're trying to push you into buying.

12. Plan your travel wisely, but if something goes wrong, go with the flow. Traffic jams, airport delays, bad weather, and too many people trying to get to the same place can leave you frustrated or even stranded. Give yourself plenty of extra time to get where you need to be, even if it means getting up far earlier than you would like. Your best bet is to leave your home prepared for the worst by stocking up on things to distract yourself and those you travel with including things to read, toys for the kids, audio books for the car, snacks that won't spoil, and -most important- a relaxed mindset. If you're traveing by air with children, here's a great resource that might make your journey easier to manage.

With these 12 survival strategies, you'll find yourself singing songs of joy, and not the blues, as you navigate any holiday season- and beyond!

Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging and please check out my website, www.searchforfulfillment.com where you can get additional information, self-tests, and links. 

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., 2011