De-stress over the holidays

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SOUTH BEND From preparing a meal to buying gifts and decorations, expectations are often high around the holidays, which can cause a lot of unnecessary stress on families.

To help alleviate that stress, 16 Morning News spoke with an area psychologist about how people can cope with the top 3 complaints.

FINANCIAL CONCERNS: According to Dr. Suzanne Courtney, a pediatric clinical psychologist in South Bend, people overwhelm themselves trying to make things perfect. That results in financial burden on most.

"I would say that primarily people get concerned about making the holidays something special and depending upon how much effort and time and organization goes into that idea, creates stress."

Dr. Courtney says instead of concerning yourself over the cost of gifts and having mass quantities, emphasize the importance of what gifts and things are really about- providing joy.

"{Help} the child understand that the monetary value of the gift doesn't represent the amount of love and care you have for them," said Dr. Courtney. "And I would say that goes for people throughout, no matter what age they are."

DEALING WITH LOSS: "Loss can be represented in many ways," said Dr. Courtney.

Loss can be death, divorce or moving into a new home.

"When you are looking to impose the old traditional way you've done something, in a new setting, that can create a lot of distress," said Dr. Courtney. "If you take realistic stock of where you are, what you're working with and create a memory based upon what you have instead of what you wish you had, that will lead to a happier outcome."

Dr. Courtney says helping someone cope and move forward after loss, instead of ignoring the problem, can also help. She also recommends making new traditions in honor of that loss.

MEETING EXPECTATIONS: Dr. Courtney says this is one of the biggest concern she hears around the holidays.

"You can't have a Norman Rockwell family, if you don't have a Norman Rockwell family," said Dr. Courtney. "I think being realistic about the people that are involved, and the type of memory you want to create helps people get organized about how you want to approach things."

Dr. Courtney says trying to solve a group problem alone, can create isolation, which causes more stress. She recommends dealing with the problem as a group, and finding ways to make new traditions based on things that are important to everyone, including yourself.

Finally, Dr. Courtney emphasized the necessity of taking comfort in the fact things can be repaired. If something doesn't go as planned, in most cases, you will have a chance to fix a bad situation in the future.

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