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College of Human Ecology

Tips Help Beat Holiday Blahs

Monday, December 12, 2005

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Holiday expectations seldom match picture-perfect get-togethers often portrayed in make-believe relationships on television, in the movies or advertisements for products and services.

"That doesn't have to mean a thumbs-down holiday season," said Charlotte Shoup Olsen, Kansas State University Research and Extension family systems specialist.

Few families go through life without experiencing the death of a family member or friend, divorce or disappointment such as the loss of a job, onset of an illness or concern about a child's choices, she said.

For most people, however, it may still be possible to find joy in the holidays and anticipation of the new year, Olsen said.

"First, acknowledge the fact that you're not alone. Everyone has ups and downs and will face challenges in life," she said.

"Think of a disappointment for what it is: the loss of a dream," Olsen said. "When a company downsizes and a career opportunity ends, a dream of success can be lost.

"The same is true when a marriage ends, through death or divorce. The hope and dream of a life together ends when a spouse dies or fails to honor what his or her spouse had considered a lifetime commitment." Mourning such losses is the first step in moving toward acceptance and personal growth, Olsen said.

"To improve your outlook, think about your goals and values," she said. "Consider what you have accomplished and make time to be with persons who nurture and encourage you."

If you want to improve relationships with others, be respectful, thoughtful and intentional, she said. In everyday life, a willingness to try something new, rather than repeat behaviors that continue to produce the same outcome may be more likely to lead to success.

Suppose, for example, a sizable, but unexpected bill arrives in the mail. The spouse who opens the mail is concerned about the bill, but rather than rush angrily toward his or her spouse who is busy organizing the family's meal, he or she waits until a time when daily stress eases and the couple will be able to talk calmly.

"Reach out. Look for ways to take the focus off yourself and focus on others," she said.

"Adding some humor to your life also can be beneficial. A good laugh can lighten the mood," Olsen said. "Celebrate the positive and skip the pity party."

More information on managing relationships successfully is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices. Information is also available on the Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu and click on "Home, Family and Youth."

This article was posted on Monday, December 12, 2005, and is filed under College News, Family Studies & Human Services.