NASHVILLE, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- During the holidays, forget striving for the perfect -- you won't achieve it -- and set a course "between Hallmark and heartache," an U.S. expert suggests.
Dr. Judith Akin, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, says for most people, holiday time does not reflect a Hallmark card image: a tastefully decorated house filled with happy people exchanging perfect gifts and enjoying a wonderful meal while a beautiful snowfall settles gently outside.
"This is a time of year where individuals can be more aware of sadness," Akin said in a statement. "We can be stressed because we are away from our families; we can be stressed because we are with our families; we can be aware of money problems."
For those celebrating with family, Akin recommends:
-- Don't try to do too much; strive to keep expectations in balance.
-- Don't try to match some ideal of the "perfect" holiday. Look for happiness in what you are able to do and keep your expectations realistic.
-- At gatherings, try to find common ground with those with whom you might disagree and avoid conversation topics of obvious conflict.
-- Don't overspend on gifts or make gift-giving the centerpiece of the celebration. Be sensitive that some people may be facing financial challenges.
For those celebrating alone, Akin suggests to:
-- Fix a special meal or plan ahead and get some special takeout.
-- Enjoy non-traditional holiday fun: Go for a long walk, go to the movies, spend the day on an art or house project that you can enjoy.
-- Let co-workers and friends know that you are alone; often an extra person at a holiday gathering can make it more fun for everybody.
-- Check online for local agencies that need help and give part of your day to help others.
-- Even if you can't be there in person, connect with family and friends by phone, email or text and pass along love and good wishes.