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12 tips to help you survive a dreaded Christmas
Find out how to eliminate Christmas heartache (for those who barely survived last year). - photo by Davison Cheney
Even people who are Christmas freaks can swing into depression at Christmas time. TV commercials show bouncy, beautiful people with great teeth enjoying their perfect bodies alongside other perfect bodies and families ofyou guessed itperfect bodies. Hair is always in the right place. Children are well-dressed, precocious and autonomous. Homes are immaculate and tastefully decorated. Snow falls in designated areas, and spills clean up with the wick of a paper towel.

It's enough to drive anybody who is less-than-perfect over the edge any time of year. It seems like everyone is enjoying each other and their magazine-worthy cheese & meat platters, and here you are scrapping scum off of the batteries in your collection of remotes.

I get it. This Christmas was supposed to be magical: you promised yourself to make it perfect when last year your furnace blew, and no one came to your party except the guy from work who hits on everything with legs. Even your kids had the common sense to be at your ex's house for the week.

So, realize upfront the Christmas season may be bleak. The weather will get worse, daylight will become scarce and your plumbing could fail. But you will make it through. Dispar not, and keep reading for tips on how to survive.

Dont wait until the last minute

Stress is a spirit killer. Get out the decorations early. Put one up a day if you lack the motivation. Or, only put up the one that is your favorite. Does it remind you of something you no longer have like family, a loved one or a memorable moment? List something wonderful the decoration reminds you of, and feel grateful for the blessing you experienced and cherished.

Have a sense of humor

Do you have a photo of last Christmas with the ex? Laminate it, and use it as a cutting board.

Christmas carol by yourself

Put the music player on the porch. Sing at the top of your lungs. Drink some hot cocoa. Bang a pan. Let the universe know you're determined to be more than the sum of your miserable parts.

Change your expectations

What would normally constitute as a great week any other time of the year doesnt cut it at Christmas time. Why is that? Its because you have gold-leafed your expectations and put them on a marble pedestal held up by a muscled knight riding a white horse and climbing a crystal staircase. Get real.

Plan a fun surprise for someone

Keep it secret. Its not about the money or the acknowledgement. Doing something for others feeds parts of the soul that arent generally nourished. Put a candy on someones desk. Hold a door open for someone. Slip a kid a dollar, and pretend it didnt happen. Buy the drink of the person behind you in line. If a two-year-old hands you a plastic play phone, answer it. Play along. Be silly. It will boost your spirits.

Say Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah

Go ahead. Say it: Are you having a good holiday?" Listen to the response. General greetings change a little during Christmas.

Do what makes you happy

Hot-tubbing? X-Files? Wedding mints? Ray Conniff? Pentatonix? Go for it! Ask someone else if they want to participate, and be okay with yourself if they dont.

Give yourself permission

Allow Christmas to look differently than it does on TV or the all-day, every-freakin'-minute Christmas radio station. Give yourself permission to have the holiday you want. Do something new. Go with the flow, or swim upstream. Its your party. You can cry if you want to or not.

Think twice about Christmas cards

Cards? Who says that you have to send cards? You could save that for Valentines Day or Halloween. Or, send a Christmas card on the Fourth of July, and have fun with it.

Create your own playlist

Hate Christmas carols? Thats okay. They are hard to avoid when out in public, but put some great music on your "i-device," and have it your way.

Set realistic expectations

Dont expect Christmas to fill your emotional cup. You are going to have to do that.

Change your outlook

Christmas lights that are put up too early, look too garish or are left up too late used to drive me insane. Now I look at the lights as one mans way to combat the darkness. A slight refocus and those pesky lights take on a whole new meaning.

Adopt that same slight refocus for the rest of the holiday, and Christmas may not be so bad this year.
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