Whether it is a religious or a national holiday, there is always something special in the air. An almost childlike and magical suspension of whatever the reality of the day may be. Adding to it all is the visual excitement stirred by the colorful lights in neighborhood apartments, homes, and stores, intensified by the media’s blitzing to buy, buy, buy!

If only that wonder were not accompanied by the inevitable stress of holidays, each one would be as close to ideal a time as one could imagine. However, the truth that is born out by statistics and by my personal experiences as a psychotherapist is that there is always an extreme rise in anticipatory anxiety and depression due to the fear that it will be yet another year where something is bound to occur to ruin what should be a happy time.

Such worries are prevalent across all socio-economic groups and are as common among those fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends and family as they are by those who are alone and isolated.The fears are naturally different, but they are fears, nonetheless.

For children everywhere (except, of course, for the most deprived ones, gifts and food and the general hullabaloo are always exciting. Yet, for the rest of us, the reality is that no matter how much we hope that the right mix of people will be invited to whatever party we may be attending, there will probably be an aunt or uncle who will drink too much (embarrassing one and all), or a friend who might gossip about what no one needs to know. Sadder still is seeing the hosts so exhausted by the time the guests arrive that they do not even enjoy the festivities they’ve worked so hard to create.

Then, too, there’s the over-eating – stuffing oneself with a variety of culinary temptations and then paying the gastronomic price the day afterward. There’s also the gift that’s totally unappreciated and the needless competition and jealousy between siblings, the grandparents who want to please everyone and be loved by everyone (an absolute impossibility), and the promises we all make not to do the things this year that made us so unhappy last year.

If there’s any comfort in learning from the past, keeping everything as simple as possible is probably the safest solution. Anything in the extreme is hardly, if ever, successful. We each need to remain in our comfort zones and we must allow others to remain in theirs.

But since we do not live in a perfect world and none of us is perfect, what we can hope for is that we don’t revert to the people, places and things that cause us to walk the walk of despair but that we opt, instead, to be with those whom we love the most and trust the most, expressing that love to one another, especially at holiday times.

In this season of many holidays and with the New Year approaching, I wish everyone good health, joy, and the ability to express heart-felt gratitude to all who have added richness and meaning to your lives.