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December 1, 2009

Ah, yes. ‘Tis the season, or so they say. But along with the jolly celebrations of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or even National Chocolate Covered Anything Day (seriously, December 16th, delicious possibilities), you have to admit that stress is especially high this time of year.

Family stress runs rampant around now. You might have family coming over for a meal or be going over for a meal at your family’s place, but for most people this is going to mean dealing with your cranky Uncle Robb, your uppity Sister-in-Law, or your cousin’s ill-behaved children that have an affinity for drawing on the walls and pestering the family cat. Hell, even if you don’t have to deal with those types in your family, you’re probably going to have stressors just seeing the family members that you enjoy being around. For some there’s cooking fever, menus that take a full week to prepare, or the sudden realisation that you put your chilled jell-o dish into the oven by accident instead of the mashed potatoes (yes, speaking from experience here. Always check under the foil before shoving pre-made items into the oven).

There are financial woes a-plenty. With the US (and other countries as well) still in a recession, there is a lot on the proverbial plate. While you might be able to get a house for relatively cheap nowadays (due to all the foreclosures), buying a house at all is still a huge undertaking! My mother is a real estate agent here in Flagstaff, Arizona, and boy has she been busy with the people who were frantic to buy a place and move in before the end of November so that they could take advantage of the federal tax credit. (The tax credit was, of course, extended at the last minute, so I suppose the rush will only continue over the next year.) For those in the colder areas, winter brings the dreaded power bills from hell. Anyone looking for a job is unlikely to find one, since most companies would rather stretch their current employees thin this holiday season instead of hire on a couple extra people for the rush. And, on that note, there is all the holiday shopping itself: long lines (especially on Black Friday?), the occasional incompetent check-out employee, the sheer cost of buying gifts, and the bother of paying outrageous postage to ship things to loved ones who don’t happen to live close.

The changing of seasons brings an outbreak of one illness or another, too. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you worry about the sudden slip on ice that will send you to the hospital with a broken limb and immediate bankruptcy. If you live in the southern hemisphere, you get the worries of heat-stroke and that hole in the ozone layer. (I’ve never lived in the southern hemisphere, so I’m just guessing, and I’m sure there are plenty of other common complaints. Got one? Send me a comment!)

I’m sure I, or anyone else, could go on and on!

Suffice it to say that there are a lot of stressors out there this time of year. We all tend to feel it, one way or another. Some of the stressors are bad, while others can be very good. Because I’m struggling to find a job (still crossing my fingers about the massage therapy position I’ve interviewed for), even filling up a box for Operation Christmas Child to help a kid in need is a stressor. Granted, this one I count as positive, because it’s for a good cause and brings me a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment, but it’s still a stressor.

What’s my point here? Good stressor, bad stressor, any stressor… It’s a good thing at this time of year to find a way to de-stress. Now, I’m sure you can go online and find a million different sites to tell you what to do to relieve your stress, but it’s truly an individualistic process. Instead of listing a million techniques here, I’ll just put up a couple general suggestions. Keep in mind that most stress-relieving activities can sometimes be another stressor, depending on the person. The point is to find what works for you.

  1. Get Away – I know it’s been said, but it’s still the first thing to come to mind. This can mean anything from taking an actual trip somewhere (for those who can afford it, be it time or money), to putting the work away for a quick break, to changing up the setting of your work when possible. It’s especially nice to head to a place you find calming (Panera Bread or Starbucks for some, outside in a park or local nature for others, moving from the home-office to the living room for still others). Sometimes that small switch will make you more productive just because it will clear your mind! Also included here is the suggestion to ‘sleep on it’. Getting a good night’s sleep is always important, and it can help you refresh, recharge, and come at your work or problems with a new perspective.
  2. Get Organized – For some people, the stress of it all makes them scattered. If you don’t feel like you can stop, for fear of losing momentum and such during the day, take a break by doing something different and productive. Cleaning, organizing your work space, condensing chores, all of them are viable options. One friend of mine suggested “Five Less Things a Day”, weeding out some of the little things that are cluttering up your life during an already stressful time. That can even mean planning ahead so you only do one big grocery-shopping trip a week instead of heading to the store every night. For some, organizational activities are relaxing and help them refocus to be more productive.
  3. Delight your senses – Find something sensual that makes you smile, and ‘sensual’ here just means involving the senses. This might mean turning on Holiday music. Conversely, this might mean turning off Holiday music for some therapeutic silence. Give and get some TLC from one (or more?) of your pets. Have a snack or meal that you really enjoy. Watch an episode of your favourite television show. Have some fun browsing scents, from Bath & Body Works while you’re doing chores to sniffing the latest collection put up by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Get a massage or have a pleasant make-out session with your significant other (or a complete stranger, if that’s your cup of tea). Just engage your senses in a way that will take your mind from the stress for a while.

I’m sure there are many many more suggestions out there, and if all else fails, you can try the classic ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ inspired activity of squeezing lemons. With all the stressors of the season coming at you, just try to find a healthy way to cope and detox a bit, from sitting down with a book (or eBook for the technology buffs) to venting to a close, understanding friend.

Find something that works for you!

Me, personally? I’ll take a cuddle session with my cats along with a healthy dose of hot cocoa and call you in the morning. ^_-

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