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With all these promises in the air, why do I feel so anxious?

This time of year promises a lot.  We are all faced with the paradoxes:  in the midst of joy and abundance -- lack; along with excitement -- anxiety; promises of closeness that increase awareness of distance.

Although New Year's Day is classically the time for resolutions, now is the time of self-inventory.  This involves becoming aware of our true needs, calculating our resources, and admitting our limits.

Our personal history can guide us by helping us acknowledge where our wounds are.  We can examine our memories of holidays past, with their buried feelings, unresolved disappointments, and images of family closeness or distance.  We can relate these to our expectations for holidays now, and realize that our fantasies may not fit our capabilities, or those of our family.

The difference between what we expect and what we can accomplish is one definition of stress.  Research has shown that people who handle stress best are characterized by at least three qualities.  First, they exhibit the ability to exercise control over their destiny, in the areas that are possible to control.  Remember the Serenity Prayer:  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference. 

Secondly, they see the benefits of change.  Changing one's life to more closely correspond to one's own needs and realities is a challenge.  This challenge motivates rather than frightens a  person who is committed to growth.  Finally, people who handle stress best are able to commit to their own goals because they value or have faith in their own decisions.

Holiday pressures are lessened by self-inventory, self-understanding, clear decisions, and commitment to change.  Additionally, attention to diet and exercise is especially important at this time of year.

Most importantly, a wonderful antidote to stress and all the other emotional dimensions of the holidays is to step out of ourselves and find others to help.  It is very true that by giving to others we are best able to help ourselves.  Remember that we have all been blessed in different ways -- let us share that with others.

May you have a truly blessed holiday season this year!

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Families Counseling is owned by Deborah Tucker, M.A., and is the practice site of several other licensed therapists. Each therapist's practice is separately owned, and completely independent.