Ask: How to enjoy the holiday season

If you believe everything you see on TV and read in magazines, you should be your happiest at the holidays. Time with relatives, guests, delicious food and gift giving – what could be bad? Well, actually, there is a flipside to this joyous time. Relatives and guests can stress you, too much food and the wrong kind of food can throw your health off track and gifts can break your bank. What to do? Follow these tips to add safeguards to keep your holiday season from becoming ho-ho-horrible.

1. Come up with a written game plan.

Set realistic expectations by creating written to-do lists. Set aside specific times on your calendar to get things done.  And make sure to leave white space on your calendar for your personal time to rest and relax.


2. Many hands make light work.  

It’s not only easier to have an extra pair of hands when there’s lots to be done, it can be more fun too!  Enjoy the companionship of friends and family as you decorate the house, wrap gifts and prepare meals together.


3. Avoid a New Year’s financial hangover.

There’s definitely a place for gifts, new gadgets, luxury items, and fun around town, but don’t go overboard.  Make a budget and stick to it.  By having boundaries around your spending, you can focus on the bigger meaning of the holidays and discover creative ways to share that involve more than consumerism.


4.  Enjoy holiday classics at home (for FREE).

Enjoy nostalgic holiday movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life,”  “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” and “Miracle on 34th Street” from the comfort of home.  Reminisce with your kids about when you first saw these films, while avoiding expensive movie tickets, greasy bottomless containers of popcorn and hassles with parking.


5.  Share the care.

Collaborate with friends and neighbors  when the kids are out of school, making arrangements to watch each other’s kids.  Play dates are a great way for children to develop social skills and build friendships.


6.  Do drink the water.

Unfortunately, our brains can often mislead us to believe we’re hungry, when we’re actually low fluids.  Stave off food cravings by frequently hydrating yourself throughout the day. 


7.  Norman Rockwell would approve.

Do not lose sight of the ultimate purpose of holiday family gatherings, which is to enjoy each other and have fun. Try turning your focus toward others' happiness and interests rather than on your own expectations of how things "should" be. For example, while you might envision an afternoon that looks like a Norman Rockwell painting, kids and other family members may be more interested in a healthy family competition of Wii bowling.  Keeping the focus on family versus personal expectations can actually make the feeling of the family gathering just like the feeling inspired by that Rockwell painting. 

8 . Keep moving.  

Physical activity, even gentle stretches, can help alleviate stress and boost your energy.  If you’re getting cabin fever, take a walk or bike around your neighborhood.  Breathe in the fresh air.  Go ice-skating, take a class at the gym, put on a yoga CD, or play hide and seek with the kids.


If you have a question about your child's health or happiness, ask Susan or any of our experts by sending email to


Drs. Susan Orenstein and Julia Messer are psychologists with Orenstein Solutions in Cary. Contact Orenstein Solutions at (919) 428-2766, ext. 0, or visit for more information.