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Navigating Family Dynamics for Happier Holidays

The holidays have a way of bringing out the kid in all of us. We long to innocently enjoy all the wonder (blissfully unaware of the work involved!). We treat ourselves to hot chocolate with a candy cane stirrer because, after all, it’s the holidays. The first time we turn on the tree lights, we remember our very first tree and clap our hands with the same joy and excitement. Innocent childhood delights adding a special flavor to our adult celebrations. No harm in that, right? Right! But what if your holiday-inspired temporary reversion to childhood isn’t quite so harmless? What if you get together with your family and find yourself acting like the bossy older sister, a role you thought you’d outgrown a long time ago? Or what if a step through Granny’s door takes you instantly from competent, capable mother to     . . . read more

Handling the Holidays When You’re Grieving

Holidays can be a minefield to navigate when you are grieving the loss of a loved one, especially if that loss was recent and this is your first holiday without them. There you are, feeling so very sad and vulnerable and raw, and everywhere you turn you are listening to cheerful holiday music, looking at pictures of smiling people, and watching excited children and beaming parents going about their holiday preparations. The contrast between where you are and where the rest of the world seems to be can be overwhelming and quite painful. Holidays are a time when cultural tradition exerts tremendous pressure on you to be a certain way, feel a certain way, act a certain way – ways that feel almost foreign to you in the midst of your grief. As you look around your holiday table, the     . . . read more

Embracing Winter for a Happier, Healthier Season

Note from Hannah: This is a guest post by Darcy Forrest, who practices acupuncture and Chinese Medicine right here in Southern Maine.  Winter….. Most people from the Northeast hate it. It’s cold, baron, icy, and brown. Bringing out the trash becomes a slight form of torture, and the thought of getting out of the shower at 6am haunts you as you watch your last show on TV before bed. Then there is the shoveling, the scraping, the dog begging to go out when the thermometer reads 9 degrees…the numb toes, the dry skin, the icy hands, and the overstuffed winter coat that makes you feel like you’re stuck in bubble wrap. Ohhhhh, winter. Why do we loathe thee? I spent a few years in Tucson, Arizona, where the winter is not a winter, and snow literally means a city wide     . . . read more

Surviving the Holidays with Your Family

Ever wonder if you are the only one who walks through the door of a family gathering and reverts to behaviors and mannerisms that have been mostly dormant for decades? I can fully assure you that it is extremely common, if not universal. I hear this complaint in my office (okay plenty in my private life too). It usually sounds like this, “I don’t know what it is but when I get together with my family, it’s like I’m a 13-year-old all over again.” Needless to say, this is a huge topic around the holidays when there is a high concentration of extended family togetherness. Why is this? My observation is that it can be a number of factors that make you prone to this situation. For some people, it is that their families have out-of-date stories about them. Or     . . . read more

Surviving the Holidays Even When You Don’t Feel Festive

If life has been difficult, the holidays can be especially trying. For people who have been laid off of work, are struggling financially, dealing with a loss, or struggling with life changes, trying to find cheer during the holiday season is tough. The truth is that not every holiday season can be completely joyous. Grief, stress, anxiety and depression do not stop for the Christmas season. If anything, these feelings tend to intensify. We tend to compare the current holiday season with ones from the past. Much unhappiness comes from making these types of comparisons. Things change year to year. We will never re-create the exact same memories or situations. This does not represent a failure or a sign that things will never feel better. It is just a natural process of change. Most of us will not have abundance,     . . . read more

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