Almost everyone is familiar with the Norman Rockwell painting of Thanksgiving dinner, Freedom From Want: Grandma with the turkey, Grandpa ready to carve, smiling faces and children sitting quietly – family bliss memorialized.

On the outside chance that you’ve experienced otherwise, though, here are a few tips for enjoying the post-Thanksgiving holidays, whichever ones you may celebrate, and dealing with the stress that sometimes accompanies this time of year:

• Be realistic. Life can be great, but it isn’t perfect. Traditions can change. Accommodate and welcome changes, rather than resent and resist them.

• Acknowledge your feelings. Realize it’s normal to feel sadness sometimes, just as we also sometimes feel great joy. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because of the time of year, but you can allow yourself to be happy and joyful.

• Tune in to the motivations of those around you. Don’t be annoyed with the aunt who “forces” you to eat a piece of pie; recognize that she’s trying to share her happiness with you.

• Be generous. This doesn’t mean spend a lot of money you may or may not have, though. Generosity can consist of your time, attention, compliments and favors to others. Babysitting and allowing a mother time to herself may be a better gift for her than something from the mall.

• Take care of yourself! Get moving. Exercise has been documented to reduce stress and elevate moods in addition to boosting energy levels, keeping weight off and reducing anger and fatigue.

• Eat well but wisely. It’s easy to overdo time at the table during this season – temptation abounds.

• Take breaks and build downtime into your calendar. Five minutes of quiet or deep breathing can go a long way.

• Learn to say no. Saying yes to a request when you should have said no will leave you resentful and overwhelmed. If you really can’t say no to a specific request, then remember to remove something else from your to-do list.

• Spend wisely. Remember, gifts of time, attention and talent can be more valuable to the recipient than gifts of things. A hand-drawn picture from a beloved grandchild will likely occupy a favored place in the home or the office, but a store-bought tie will more likely remain on the rack.

• Take proactive steps to enjoy the holidays. Learn to recognize those things that trigger stress: traffic at the mall, hearing “The 12 Days of Christmas” for the umpteenth time, demands on your time or anything that bugs you. Then, try to address such stressors before they cause problems for you.

Whichever holiday you celebrate, may you find peace and joy this year. 

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Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (, an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.