Monday Medical: Have yourself a positive holiday

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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since its first publication on Dec. 24, 2007.

During this holiday season, as we look out on a Yampa Valley landscape that could have inspired Currier and Ives, we may be filled with conflicting thoughts and feelings.

Joy that Mother Nature finally seems inclined to deliver the No. 1 item on the Steamboat Ski Area’s wish list — snow. Caution for the hazards that snow and ice present as we drive and walk on slick surfaces. Happy memories of Grandma and Grandpa. Sadness that comes with the loss of a loved one without whom the celebration seems incomplete.

’Tis the season of emotional contrasts.

“We think of this time as a break from the demands and stresses of our everyday lives, but that’s not always the way it ends up feeling,” Steamboat Springs licensed professional counselor Richard Boersma says. “That’s because we’re unrealistic in our expectations.”

One might almost label this the “Too Much Syndrome.” As Boersma says, we eat too much, spend too much, sit around too much and often feel guilty too much. Then there are all those social gatherings jammed into a hectic three weeks.

“We get peopled-out. We try to please too much. We try too hard to make it special and take poor care of ourselves in the process,” Boersma says. “Too often, we’re glad to get back to work to recover from our ‘relaxation.’”

Boersma has two techniques to get the most pleasure out of this holiday season: simplify and actively make your holiday the best it can be.

“Don’t overbuy; you’re likely to resent it later,” he advises. “Don’t overtry or you’ll get the same result: resentment or even depression. Enjoy people, then enjoy being alone.”

When selecting the perfect gift for everybody on your list, don’t forget yourself. Boersma advocates giving and receiving the present of the present: “Give the gift of time; just enjoy the now.”

Tom Traynor, a licensed psychologist in Steamboat Springs, echoes Boersma in his message that it is up to each individual to create a positive holiday experience.

“For the holidays as well as every other day of my life, I like to work on an old idea with a new spin,” Traynor says. “My version goes: ‘I will develop the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’

“To do this requires that you do not wait for someone or something to ‘grant’ you your serenity, courage or wisdom,” he continued. “Always remember: ‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.’ Stop waiting for someone or something to make it different.”

There are many specific things you can do to make this a memorable holiday.

Here are a few ideas from Boersma:

■ Design your day. Go ice skating with a friend, get a couple of other ’Boat people over for a little feast and fun, or volunteer to serve the community dinner on Christmas Day. Don’t let the day find you home alone, wishing you were there.

■ Know what’s happening. Failure to plan may leave you sitting home, staring at a re-run of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Check out the Happenings in the Steamboat Today. Ask your workmates, roommates or concierge what they’re planning.

■ Share what you have to give. If you have to work on the holidays, make it your goal to add to someone else’s holiday fun or comfort. Remind yourself that most visitors have planned this vacation for a long time, and you are lucky enough to live here.

These ideas and many more are in the Holiday Blues section of a very helpful Web site called Steamboat Counseling, at: www.steamboatcounseling.com. For example, there are specific suggestions for anyone who has suffered a personal loss and associates the holidays with this

As the winter stretches ever onward, you may wish to visit this Web site’s sublink for seasonal affective disorder.

All licensed mental health professionals in the Yampa Valley are encouraged to participate in t his site, which is also loaded with excellent links to national sites in the Mental Health Resources section.

Christine McKelvie is public relations director of Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at christine.mckelvie@yvmc.org.

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