Tips on how to enjoy, not just survive, the holidays

COLUMBUS AFB, Miss. -- The holiday season, from Thanksgiving through New Years, is a time for family, food and fun. However many people experience high stress, deep disappointment or even depression during this festive time of year. Military families, especially, face special challenges since they are often away from family or have a family member on deployment during the holidays. The following tips from the Airman and Family Readiness Center are offered to help make this season a very positive experience for all. 

· High expectations about "how it should be" often create unnecessary stress. Let go of the "should be's" and work on the "can be's." Stay in the moment and create new ways to celebrate with the people you love. Evaluate, prioritize and simplify whenever possible as you tailor your holiday season and enjoy the magic of now. 

· If family members are far away or deployed, look for positive ways to stay in touch during the holidays. Make a video or audio tape for the family member on deployment. Let them know about how much you care and that they are still a part of things, even from a distance. Concentrate on the strength of what is there, not on the hurt of what is missing. 

· Set reasonable goals for holiday preparations. Discuss and decide what is really important for your celebration. Don't try to cook everybody's favorite food or display every decoration you own, just invite others to help in the preparations. 

· Establish a realistic budget and spend wisely on holiday purchases. Resist the temptation to run up credit card bills that cannot be paid off in a reasonable time. Think of alternatives to purchased gifts, such as homemade items. 

· All families experience tension at some time. Let go of negative feelings as much as possible and encourage others to focus on positive thoughts. 

· If child care is a problem, swap baby-sitting with a friend to allow time for shopping, doing things around the house or simply relaxing. 

· Creativity is an important part of holiday celebrations. Take advantage of the opportunities or unique characteristics of the place you live. Explore current surroundings and customs and decide which ones to incorporate in your celebration. You might find that you've created a new family tradition. 

· Let the kids be part of the preparation. Delegate jobs depending on ages and abilities, from putting stamps on envelopes to creating unique gift wrap. 

· Invite someone who might otherwise be alone to join in for a holiday dinner or party. Prepare some cookies or other holiday foods and deliver those as a family to someone who is alone. 

· Be safe. Don't let the hectic pace of the holidays be an excuse to take unnecessary shortcuts in this area. Make sure decorations are in good working condition, limit alcohol consumption and be aware of surroundings while shopping, including traffic. Heed the old adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." 

Every day is an opportunity to be the best that you can be. Begin the day and end the evening by telling yourself how wonderful it is to be alive. Always remember to value and embrace your family, your faith, your friends and your life, dearly. 

The Airman and Family Readiness Center staff wishes each of you a Happy Holiday season!