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Making the holiday season stress-free takes a serious commitment and it is not for the faint of heart.tempted. Carrying around a glass (which can be filled with water) at an event can also keep you from grazing.How about adding a healthy twist on the comfort foods we tend to gravitate toward at this time of year? Simple things like sugar-free eggnog and no bake energy bites with pumpkin can taste very festive and would be welcomed by others wanting to reduce their intake of sweets.When others seemingly try to push you to try treats, go shopping or carol- ing, or visit with relatives, consider that they are often trying to engage you in the spirit of the season because they care about you. Pause to reconsider what you might want to say; take a deep breath; hold it for a few seconds; and exhale. Repeat if necessary. Rather than arguing, consider thanking them for their ideas and suggest another option that would be of more interest to you. That does mean that you might want to be prepared with a few ideas as well as be prepared to say “no” politely and firmly and go your separate way.Furthermore, you should take the time to make a list of all the things you really want to do during this holiday season. Then break the list down further to “must do’s” and “niceties.” As an example, I must put up lights on my porch area but it would be nice to put lights on the entire house. The first will happen; the secondprobably won’t and I’m okay with that. I must bring treats to the family Thanks- giving dinner and it would sure be niceto make them myself, but I may end up buying the pie instead. I’m okay with that. Prioritize by timelines. Be sure to include exercise, healthy foods, and sleep on the “must do” list. And above all, be flexible.While some of you might start stress- ing over the idea of having family coming to visit, consider that the mere presence of friends and family can actually phys- ically reduce our stress. It’s true; being around your best friend during a stressful time can decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body. So when your friend invites you to a family function you have the opportunity to make it more enjoyable, and less stressful for them. Fear not however, it’s okay to say no if it really does not fit your schedule this year.Repeated studies also show that hug- ging can increase levels of oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) and decrease cortisol levels, which can reduce stress. Hug- ging is good for your health too! Beyond touch, a simple phone call with a loved one can release oxytocin in your brain and help keep you calm.If you are experiencing a challenging relationship with a loved one there is no time like the present to start to break down walls and reach out. It may begin with forgiveness without expecting any-thing in return. Forgiveness alone reduces stress. Then work to rebuild the relation- ship in whatever way you can, maybe emails, texts, and phone calls.During this time of giving, consider that your time can be just as valuableto others as your dollars. You can be gen- erous with your time by doing errands for others, making creative gifts for others, or helping others to do so, or even volun- teering with an organization you want to support. When you are creative with your time and heartfelt talents it will be appre- ciated by others.Not surprisingly, volunteering has been shown to reduce stress. Doing some- thing valuable for another makes them feel better but also makes us feel better. If you have no family in the area reachout to others that could be lonely at area adult care facilities or foster care homes, the homeless, the sick, or the hungry. If you have some extra change donate to a red kettle, write a check to your favorite charity, donate items to Toys for Tots, the Humane Society, the Haven, or even Safe Place. You’ll instantly feel better.Change your expectations this holiday season and allow fewer activities to mean more. Be sure to include exercise, healthy foods along side the yummy treats, and plenty of sleep.May your Thanksgiving be full of grati- tude and your Christmas be Merry.CHARITABLE ISSUE I SCENE 4411 11

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