The approaching holidays start popping up in my conversations with my counseling clients every year about this time. I'm a believer of empowering yourself and your family to re-choreograph the holidays from year to year. What feelings do you get when you realize that Thanksgiving is just around the corner, with the other holidays quickly following? Does it give you stress? Do you feel excitement or dread? Here are some ideas for re-imagining the holiday season ahead.

What if you have all the stuff you need? You could talk with family members about giving each other gifts of time or experiences together instead of stuff.

Perhaps this is your first holiday season after a loss of a loved one, or after experiencing the loss of divorce. During grief, some families want to keep as much the same as possible, while others want to change things. Talk it over and find out how each family member feels about this first holiday season and perhaps how you want to honor memories from the past.

If you are newly divorced and have children, it's so important to help the children transition smoothly and comfortably from your house to sharing some holiday time with their other parent. This is really the best present you can give your children if they face two households for the holidays. 

What if you want to create a debt-free January? I have several clients who are on track saving for their first home by putting away money each month. It's important not to let the holidays blow up your budget. You could initiate a discussion at Thanksgiving about choosing names and each adult buying a gift for one person instead of the usual overload. You might also consider making homemade gifts or setting price limits to add a new creativity level to gift giving.

What about if you're going to be alone for the holidays? Think of ways you can make that day wonderful for yourself. Can you add in other holiday experiences with friends at other times throughout the holiday season? Can you reach out to others who will be alone that day in your neighborhood or community and lift their spirits? Much of the joy of the holidays is sharing that spirit with others.

What if you dread seeing some negative relative who ruins the spirit of the holidays for you? Practice acceptance and being non-judgmental, but don't get trapped in a long, toxic monologue. Seek out the people at family gatherings who lift you up or who you want to connect with. Don't be passive. Make a plan!

How can you get unstuck from holidays patterns you're tired of? Discuss it with your partner or your family, as early as you can. You might want to be home Christmas morning at your place this year, streamline the regular activities or change things up in some other way that would be easier, or more fun and memorable.

Maybe you're being healthier, or have family members who are vegan, have food allergies or dietary restrictions. Perhaps each person can prepare a dish to share. A moveable feast which moves to different houses in the family for a different course could also increase the fun and keep any one person from getting too overwhelmed.

You might consider initiating holiday activities together that are activity-based rather than food-oriented. Could you take an evening drive together to enjoy the festive lights and have hot chocolate or hot cider afterward as a new tradition? A holiday-themed play or music performance could also be a fun way to gather with loved ones. It could be memorable to attend a community tree lighting, or volunteer together for a local charity or family in need.

Any of your holiday experiences can be recreated and updated if you give yourself permission to evaluate other options for the holidays. Consider which traditions are important to you personally, and which are not. Ask the rest of the family to do the same.

Think of this holiday season re-imagined, with more meaning and spirit, and less drudge. You're free to create the holiday season you wish. Only you can give yourself permission to set your intentions and be as conscious about the upcoming holiday season as you are in the rest of your life. Make this holiday season something you remember with a smile after it's over.