MANY people have high expectations of their holidays. They look forward to days off work spent relaxing and recharging their batteries; time for doing fun things,

visiting interesting places, enjoyable walks, a trip to beach, perhaps doing nothing.

But holidays can end up becoming incredibly stressful times. Long hours spent together can highlight areas of disagreement.

Many people report disputes over what to do, irritations about spending money or annoying personal habits that cannot be ignored! In fact holidays are second only to Christmas as the busiest time of the year for divorce lawyers!

Here are some suggestions to help you enjoy a better time:

* If you have children, plan ahead and share the load with others. Double-up arrangements with family or friends, so that children and adults can enjoy time separately and together. That way you get to share the driving, expense and effort. Or alternate times when you look after each others' children; then you get occasional childless freedom.

* Avoid the pressure to overspend by sourcing free entertainment. Parks, museums, and beaches don't charge and many venues give special offers at holiday times. If you are on your own, could you suggest an outing to friends or colleagues?

* Have a plan B. Arrange that barbecue or picnic, but what if bad weather ruins those plans? Children love an indoor picnic; a tablecloth on the floor can be great fun. Adults are often surprised at how much they enjoy board games or charades. Impromptu events are often the ones remembered with great affection.

* Plan outings with your partner or children rather than leave things to chance. A bike ride, nature trail or treasure hunt are inexpensive ways to enjoy each others' company while enhancing those relationships.

* Holiday times spent alone can be enjoyable if thought through. Plan your viewing, schedule lovely meals, freshen up your home with clean sheets and vases of flowers. Treat yourself well.

* Accept invitations, but also leave free time for spontaneity. Not every moment has to be choreographed. Enjoy pottering in the garden, reading a book or simply relaxing and doing nothing.

Susan Leigh is a long-established counsellor, hypnotherapist, writer and media contributor. She is author of two books — Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact, and Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain.

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