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How Important Is It to Spend the Holidays with Family?

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The holidays are supposed to be about spending time with your loved ones, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen

Between vacation conflict, distance, and of course the airport blip because of the torrential snowstorm, holidays with friends and family can be tricky. Sometimes it’s just easier for everyone to stay where they are and forego all the effort. But how important is it to actually spend the holidays with family?

Research shows that families who spend quality time together are strong families. They communicate better and share a sense of belonging, which is critical for emotional wellbeing. Quality time is an expression we hear often but is hard to quantify and its meaning will vary from household to household.

It’s not uncommon to feel what some call the holiday blues, a dip in mood during Thanksgiving and the holidays. Feelings of depression are actually quite common during this time but being around family stimulates feelings of happiness.

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Common symptoms of holiday blues if left in isolation can include:

  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • uneasiness
  • anxiety
  • sadness
  • intestinal problems
  • unnecessary conflict with family and friends

One of the greatest gifts of the holiday season is the gift of time with family. Spending time together during this time not only strengthens relationships, it also fortifies memories and sets the tone for the remainder of the year to continue making time for each other. Whatever quality time means to your family, it’s essential that you make it a priority especially during the holidays for yourself, your relationship and your family.

If you do find yourself alone during the holidays, here are some things you can do that will be sufficiently beneficial in maximizing emotional well-being to wind down the year:

  1. Adjust expectations. Elaine Rodino, Ph.D., a Californian clinical psychologist, says there are so many expectations about the season being executed perfectly that it brings up all sorts of issues relating to family, stress and anxiety, eating disorders, sobriety, self-esteem, competency, etc… “There’s this idea that it’s supposed to be perfect, and if it’s not, the person asks, ‘What’s wrong with me?” Realizing that no one has the perfect set up.  
  2. See if you can be included in the gatherings of your friends or “alternative family” made up of people whose company you enjoy.
  3. Plan an outing. Go on a hike, or go to the movies, a park or a museum. Enjoy the outing with your group or by yourself.
  4. Pamper yourself. Do whatever you enjoy doing.
  5. Reach out to your family in the form of letters, emails or cards so your spirit can still be with them.
  6. Help others. Volunteer at a mission or shelter for the homeless will help you feel connected.
  7. Travel.
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