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Psychologist has cure for holiday stress

By Tara Ramroop, STAFF WRITER

True or false: The holidays feel more like a chore than tradition.
If you answered "true," read on.

Pumped up as the most joyful time of the year, the holidays are anything but for some who've lost a loved one, don't have enough money to fly home, or take on the task of cooking for 25 family members.

Enter Carol Tyler, a San Bruno-based licensed psychologist, who offers some advice on how to get over the holiday doldrums.

Tyler earned her doctorate in experimental psychology at the University of California, Davis. She completed additional training at California State University, Sacramento and specializes in life transitions and emotions. She holds weekly support groups for grieving Peninsula residents year-round.

For those surviving family members and friends, loss hits home after a couple of holiday seasons, Tyler said, when they realize someone really won't be coming back. Tyler suggests pouring a glass of wine in memoriam and focusing on good times with family and friends who've come to celebrate.

But that's easier said than done, she said. Even for the non-grieving.

If you haven't directly lost someone to death, feelings of loss still abound for everyone at this time, said Tyler.

"At the very least," said Tyler, "there's the feeling of not being able to relive your favorite childhood holiday memories. But you just can't reliably recreate the wonder of the holiday season every time."

Those feelings of loss unfortunately translate into buying truckloads of presents and taking on all the holiday meal preparations, said Tyler. It's a knee-jerk reaction to try and control the uncontrollable, she said.

"The economy isn't in good shape, but the pressure to buy is enormous," said Tyler. "And people buy into it just because they feel obligated to."

That obligation, the root of many stressful holidays, is the most emotionally damaging part of this time of year, said Tyler.

Plan of action

Don't fret -- Tyler promises there are things you can do. First of all, realize that something from the holiday repertoire has to go if the "most wonderful time of the year" just isn't.

Prioritizing is key, just as we do with finances and workloads, said Tyler. Get together with family members or friends and decide what's most meaningful to you, instead of everyone else.

"Make your own traditions," said Tyler. "Because if we're each taking care of everyone, no one is taking care of themselves."

Go on a vacation, eat at a nice restaurant or decide not to exchange presents this year, Tyler advises. If the stress still starts to take its toll, Tyler swears that two deep breaths will do the trick.

"They say giving is the best thing you can do," said Tyler. "But sometimes, the best thing you can do is giving things up."

Article Source San Mateo County news | The Mercury News


I'm going to use some of this advice, without guilt, this Christmas.

I leave tomorrow for a vacation in the Dominican Republic. I've never been before so am looking forward to the adventure and most of all just relaxing.

Then, when I return just days before Christmas, I will decide what and how much I want to do. I may spend just a short time with family and then relax at home. I'm going with what Iwant to do versus what others want me to do or what I feel I should do.

I'm doing the happy dance :~}

Cheers to the holidays!


Thanks for the article. The pressure to buy and make everyone happy is what kills me at this time. If I didn't have kids, I would say screw it and go bah-humbug.


You know, it's not always about what you buy for others. Giving isn't just about material things. Sometimes, just a big hug, a wide smile, a smooch on the cheek, and a heartfelt "I love you" mean more, and last longer, than anything one could buy.


It's true. Unfortunately, most people wouldn't share that sentiment. Or it's not that they wouldn't share that sentiment but it's not what is "expected".


You're right. It's not what's come to be expected. However, I have found that people accept it much more readily than we think they might, once they understand the purpose behind it. Christmas has become so commercial, so totally outside of what it's meant to be, that the expectations are destroying the meaning that should be there, in my opinion.

Personally, in my family, we don't give gifts. We take turns deciding to what charity, or other helping organization, we want to give the money we would have spent on gifts for each other. This year, it's grandmother's turn to decide where the money goes. We all feel pretty good about what we do, and our exchange of gifts is exactly what I described...getting together with smiles, laughter, kisses, good food and good times. Works great for us.
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