by Hazel Field Melmed, LCSW

When we hear these words our hearts start to race and we might feel a knot in our stomach or experience some other stress reaction. Holidays are often difficult for some of us. This might be caused by difficult financial times, strained relationships, or loneliness.

How about making this year different and more meaningful?

Whenever we confront an issue or problem, making a plan to deal with it is a good place to start. It gives us focus and we can begin to organize our ideas and thoughts into finding solutions. This sense of control is a big stress reducer.

Let’s address the “holiday blues” first. Facing this feeling can be daunting, but it is important to bear in mind that you are not alone. Here are some thoughts and ideas to help you take charge and make “holiday blues” a thing of the past.

  • “Giving is better than receiving.” There are countless organizations that are looking for volunteers to help around the holidays United We Serve is a great place to start. Type in your zip code for a listing of local volunteering opportunities.
  • Look around see who in your neighborhood needs help – the elderly or the young. Little gestures can make a big impact on another person’s day and can boost your own mood.
  • Consider hosting a pot-luck dinner.
  • Family dynamics are sometimes difficult, and relationships can be strained. Try to come up with ways you can either resolve or set aside for now, conflict or discomfort with “difficult” family members.
  • Decide on a budget, consider realistically what you can afford at this time to spend on this holiday season. Calculate a dollar amount, write it down, and follow it closely.
  • Make a comprehensive list of all those you would like to give “something” to this holiday season.
  • Make a list of ideas for gifts. Include cards, emails, facebook messages, or other “home- made” gifts.
  • Take some good deep breaths, close your eyes, and say something positive to yourself. Something you can believe, for example: “I’m trying something new this year,” or “I will count my blessings.”

At this point you might find yourself feeling more energized and enthusiastic about counting the days, as you prepare for the holidays.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, one that you have taken charge of, to make it less stressful and more meaningful.

For more information on stress management, dealing with difficult relationships, or depression, please contact me at or 303-867-4612.