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Volume 71, Issue 61, Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Ease holiday stress with goodwill

Darrel A. Holnes
Opinion Columnist

Finally, the holiday season is here. These are times of good cheer and goodwill, where people of all backgrounds and beliefs unite in the name of peace and brotherhood. But the holidays can also be a time of great stress, anxiety and even depression. In the next few weeks, many of us will be overwhelmed with chores, carols and charges. Instead of masking our worries with fake smiles or pretending we did not get the dinner invitation in the mail, we should see the holidays as opportunities to make amends with our loved ones and find peace in each other. 

Holiday shopping can be very stressful, from selecting the perfect present to budgeting the gifts you give. Though, when asked, we say it's the thought that counts, many people judge their relationship at this time of year based on the type and price of the gift they receive. It is important that we not forget that often, adding a personal touch reminds the receiver that the thought is more important than the actual item. Attaching personal flair really shows them that you care. Though phrase T-shirts are a passing fad, any gift that celebrates a particular character trait makes the gift more about the meaning of your relationship than about attaching a monetary value to your relationship. Doing this will alleviate most of the pressure felt from selecting the perfect gift. 

The holidays also give you an opportunity to make amends with not-so-forgotten friends. Share with someone that he or she is in your thoughts despite any turmoil or trouble that may have occurred. This simple action opens up lines of communication that may have been blocked or ignored and reminds both of you that you have a history worth remembering. 

Some people experience loneliness during the holidays, longing to feel part of a family or group of some kind. For many international students, the holidays are the most difficult time because they miss not only their families and friends but their homeland as well. They may long to see their hometown decorated or to taste the holiday treats that are probably not available in this country. Many students in this position, instead of partaking in the holiday celebration, are left to reminisce, which may lead to all sorts of destructive changes in mood. Recognize this displacement as an opportunity and take advantage of it. Instead of recalling all of the things you used to do, share your customs with those around you. You can also try to immerse yourself in a new holiday style so that when you return to your hometown, you have new customs and stories to share with others. Doing either or both will help make the holidays pass without a hitch. 

During the holidays, there is often the inevitable family reunion. Just as drama occurs between friends and classmates, so it occurs within family. There are, however, big differences. In many cases, family drama is more intense, much more personal and definitely more complicated. What can you do, for instance, if you have been wronged by an uncle, but he does not agree, or worse, if your mother has been wronged by her sister and there is tension between you and your cousins? Who is going to come to the celebration? Who will even be invited? Many questions are thrown into the air, but instead of speculating about the answers, we must take the holiday time as an opportunity and the holiday cheer as motivation to work things out. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call, an invitation or the accepting of an invitation to bring back the warmth. If there is some awkwardness, it will pass. The important thing is to make the effort. Tension in the family always affects more than one person, so remember that everyone benefits from finding peace. Don't even hesitate. After all, they are family. Make an attempt -- they deserve that much.

Despite whatever religion you may follow, there is always something to celebrate during the holidays; there is an undeniable positive flow tied to this time of year. Everyone has time off from work, school or both. It is a time to sit back, be thankful and enjoy life. Do not hesitate to spread the holiday cheer to others and welcome people into your world. Take advantage of the holiday season, continue to be a Cougar with a conscience and find peace in your fellow man. 

Holnes, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at

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