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great ways to handle the holidays, solo or not

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When this columnist thinks about what is a luxury at holiday time, I think it's being a child. The reason is that only children have the luxury of being able to enjoy the glitz and excitement, because they don't have any responsibilities associated with creating these dreams. And, for those children whose parents are flush with cash (or foolish enough to put themselves into debt to appear so), the children's "caviar dreams and champagne wishes" really do come true.

For the rest of it, the holidays are often and sad and stressful time. Despite what the media would have us believe, it's not "the most wonderful time of the year." For many, it's the worst time of the year. Call me a grinch, but I'm one of those people for whom "luxury" means getting to January 2nd, and putting all the "holiday hype" behind me. I welcome your comments. Send me hate mail, if you must, but I have a feeling that at least some of your reading this are nodding in agreement.

As you are reading this column, I am going to be in Paris. The forecast is for rain, but I'll be feeling sunny, because I'm going to be in a different place, hopefully enjoying the holidays with fresh eyes, and with my husband and good friends. But believe me when I tell you that not every year of my life has been this fabulous. I know what it feels like when everyone else is supposedly being showered with love and joy, and you're eating take-out or worse, frozen pizza. And I've written this article in various forms year after year for my readers on the Advice Sisters Web Site, and now, for my readers on So if you feeling a bit down or depressed about all the hoopla surrounding the holidays, please allow me to your "guardian angel" today, and know that at least one person understands...and that person is ME!

Whether you are solo or not I hope these tips benefit you not just today, but for a lifetime. Some are common sense, but they bear repeating. And many are relevant to holidays all year long. If you feel like sharing then, do it, and make someone else's day a little brighter.

First and foremost, there is fantasy and there is reality. The media is flooding your brain with visions of glamorous holiday parties and family gatherings tha make you feel anything but “merry & bright.” Perception isn't reality" and not everyone is having a grand old time this season except for you! Despite the glittering visions guaranteed to mess with your emotions, most people are not getting diamonds and furs, and sipping endless champagne, and getting through family gatherings without annoyance. Plenty of people even find themselves at holiday parties so boring they’d rather be home eating take-out with the dog! Every year, people get called away on business, find themselves stuck at an airport, or just don’t have the funds to travel closer to family and friends. There are last-minute break-ups, and legions of family fights that will burn into people's memories and hurt, for decades. Families are divided because they can't please both sides, and feelings are badly hurt. Disappointing gifts are exchanged. Office parties make for juicy gossip that won't die. Lovers are torn from their partners because of other obligations. Shut-ins are stuck inside and can't even go out to enjoy the day. Others feel so down they won’t make the effort. You know that old saying: "I felt I was unfortunate because I had no shoes, until I saw the man who had no legs?" Cheesy, perhaps, t think of the holidays like that and you will always be ok, You are better off than so many people, why not be grateful? If you’re solo and not feeling so good about it, you have plenty of company--and you don't have to be lonely or sad.

Feeling the pinch and being a GRINCH? Here are 10 Ways to Handle Any Holiday, Solo or Not:

Volunteer: This is my #1 tip to help feeling sorry for yourself. Giving back is the most empowering feeling, and the best way to truly embrace the spirit of the season. There are volunteer opportunities everywhere. You can Google volunteer opportunities + (your location) online and work with a reputable, organized group. Or, visit your local church or community center and they’ll help match you with volunteer activities that suit your interests and availability. One traditional way to bring cheer during the holidays is to help deliver meals to the seniors, shut-ins, and those who can’t afford a holiday feast on their own. The love and gratitude you will experience will keep you warm all season long, and put your own situation in better perspective. You’ll be with other loving, caring people keeping busy so the time speeds by. Get started now, and you might be ringing in the New Year with a potential new love, or with newfound friends!

Create A Happy Environment: Happy things to look at really do a lot to make you feel good. If you like holiday decorations, put them up, even if it is “just you.” Play holiday music on your iPod while you’re power walking or working out at the gym (exercise is a great way to feel great). If your office allows for it, add some seasonal touches to your desk. Hang your holiday cards on a string where you can see the, — you can’t help but feel appreciated when you see all those cards! People have been thinking of you, even if they aren’t currently nearby. If you’re really hot into “holiday” buy a new plant or some colorful flowers, or a scented candle, to brighten up your space.

Party In Your Own Place: If you’re alone on the actual holiday, all the more reason to host a party in your own place before everyone leaves for Christmas, New Years, etc. Take plenty of photos and put them on your computer or phone. Look at them if you’re feeling a bit lonely and realize that the holidays are just a small part of the year. You’ll be united with friends and family again!

Celebrate, Don't Mourn, Loved Ones Gone: Good memories are the way we keep loved ones who have passed on, alive. If you start to feel sad that someone you love has passed on and won’t be with you this holiday season, quickly switch the sadness to a happy thought about them. They don’t want you to cry and be sad, they want you to remember all the things that you know are so wonderful about them, and the fun times you had. Try substituting glad for sad memories. You won’t be able to help but smile. Your loved ones will live forever, as long as you remember them in happy memories!

Make Something: One sure way to put your mind at ease is to keep it busy with something fun and interesting. If you are at home, cook something! The smell of fresh bread or cookies, or a holiday cake, or fragrant soup will pass the time and give you something delicious to enjoy. If cooking isn’t your thing, stock up on foods you enjoy. You don’t have to eat Turkey or a Roast just because “Mom” always made it. If you feel like vegetable curry or chicken noodle soup…go for it! If you are away from home, try working on a puzzle or knitting, or anything that takes hours to complete. The day will pass much more quickly.

Meet To Eat: Everyone has to eat, sometime. So make holiday meals a social occasion. Consider joining or hosting an ‘eating & meeting” party where everyone who is alone brings someone else to lunch, brunch, or dinner. You will all know at least one person and you’ll meet new people. This is a fun way to get together every week or month as well as at the holidays. Even if the idea of “singles events” make your knees weak, consider a singles-only event at holiday time. You don’t even have to be looking for a romantic partner to share in the holiday spirit with others who want to share the day with others. These events offer companionship, conversation, and (if you are seeking romance), you just find a new love. If nothing else, everyone there is in the same boat…and grateful for your company.

Plan Ahead: Whatever you do, don’t leave plans for the last minute and then wonder what you’re going to do to make the time fly by. Definite plans ahead of time are comforting and empowering. If you don’t want to get out (or you can’t get out), be sure to pre-arrange calls with family and will give you (and them) something to look forward to. At the very least, pick up movies that inspire you or make you laugh. “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Sleepless in Seattle” are my personal, pick-me-up, holiday favorites.

Connect: Computers and smart phones keep you constantly connected, so call, text, tweet, Facebook or email. And, there’s always the opportunity to connect online. ” No matter where you are in the world, people are online and looking to connect, especially on the holidays. Just remember to play it smart, and safe. Not everyone is “nice” and predators are looking for people who are vulnerable. Even if that's how you feel, don't let them know! You can't know if the strangers on the other side of your computer screen are who they say they are. Never tell too much, especially if you are upset or very lonely, and don't reveal personal information or intimate feelings until you really know who you're dealing with.

Get Advice: Promise yourself that next year things will be different. If you feel “stuck” and want 2012 to be better, let The Advice Sisters, That's is me, your virtual friend. and my partner Tony and I on Leather and Lace Advice and Leather and Lace SPICE., help you meet your goals. You can also follow me @advicesisters @leatherlaceadv and @leatherNLaceSpi and on facebook and -- I DO answer my email, and tweets, and Facebook friends, too.

And # 10 -- A FINAL BIT OF WISDOM: If you get sad or upset, remember that each day is just 24 hours long — and then it’s over! Sad thoughts feel like they’re forever, but really, they're fleeting. For most people simply substituting a bad thought for a happy is an effective way to banish the blues. But if you have a very serious or potentially life-threatening problem, please don’t wait: Call a local hot line or visit a local crisis center in your area. To find help immediately, do an online search (e.g. “crisis hotline”) or check the phone book. I want your new year to start out well, and end, even better!



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