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Ho hum holidays? 10 tips to make the season bright

December 10, 2013

’Tis the season to be jolly.

That’s a tall order for some people during the holidays who may envision a time filled with too much to do, interactions with unpleasant family members and a season focused on things rather than experiences.  

ASU's Larry Dumka, a family therapist and associate professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, offers insight into making the most of the season by focusing on things that really matter to you and those you love.  

1. Ask yourself what you value about the holidays and clarify what is most meaningful to you.

2. Prioritize your time, since it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fit in all of the activities. “We all have 168 hours a week and no more. We also have other responsibilities,” says Dumka.

3. Have a conversation with loved ones about which events you want to focus on and scheduling time together.

4. If you are the person who takes care of most holiday tasks in your household and would like that to change, talk with others in your home and tell them how you think the usual routine should be altered.

5. Ditto for changing a holiday tradition. “Ask family members what is important to them, as well as telling them what is important to you. You’ll need to have household members on board with any change, especially those who liked the old plan,” Dumka says.

Expect pushback if you try to change a holiday tradition. “That’s inevitable. It’s how a family’s emotional system works,” he says.

6. If you have to see a family member who you don’t particularly enjoy, realize what your tolerance is and plan things that don’t overtax your coping resources. Decide if it’s worth it to have a conversation with that person to try to improve the relationship or if you can plan a way to interact that allows you to keep your integrity, as well as being respectful. “That’s a tough balance. Couples have to do that with each other, too,” Dumka says.

7. If you’re a college student with newfound freedoms returning to a home environment, be respectful of parents and their rules. It might also be a good time to have a mature conversation. “Young adults can initiate an adult conversation with their parents rather than act in a child role. I think most parents have an expectation that that is going to happen,” he says.

8. Take care of yourself during the holidays by getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating and drinking with moderation. “These are ways to keep your strength and resources up during a time that has a lot of emotion connected to it because friends and family are getting together,” he says.  

9. If someone has lost a loved one, make a special effort to include them in activities.

10. Realize that the purpose of the holidays is celebrating togetherness, relationships and the good things in life.

The T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics is an academic unit in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.