“Happy Holidays” by Julie Merker

Tis the season for time spent with family, time away from work – you know – joy and happiness!  This season seems to work a certain level of magic on the community. Whether it is nursing back to health an ailing economy or bringing distant friends and relatives together to share a meal and some laughs, this really is a wondrous season. What could be better?

No one needs research data to know that there is typically an increase in calorie consumption and decrease in physical activity, leading to the dreaded weight gain of the season. But let us remember – behind every great holiday season, there are the people and plans that make it happen. All those logistics can’t be easy to maneuver, so just how does the holiday season stress us out?

According to the Holiday Stress study(1) published by the American Psychological Association,the leading holiday stressors among Americans are: lack of time (67%), lack of money (62%), and the commercialism of the season (53%). Holiday stress shows more of an impact on women than men. According to this study, 44% of women report an increased level of stress during the holidays compared with 31% of men. It may not be surprising that the authors found that women are more likely than men to do the following activities: shopping for food, cooking, and cleaning. Fifty three percent of lower middle income Americans report that their stress level increases during the holidays. This group is also most impacted by the level of consumerism in the season.

Every year we go through the same rigmarole…putting up lights and the Christmas tree, hanging stockings, buying gifts, cooking, cleaning, entertaining – all to do it again a few more times and then it’s – OVER. Just like that, it’s over. Somehow, despite my seeming ambivalence about the preparations I am actually sad that it’s over. So this year, as we prepare for Christmas and ring in 2014, I resolve to hold a bit of the Christmas spirit in my heart all year. While I cannot heal an ailing economy singlehandedly, I can do my part to ease the commercialism of the season. And of course, I can bring people together. We are a community and together we can make a different kind of holiday feeling.