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Putnam: Limiting stress this holiday season

Dec. 3, 2017 at 4 a.m.


At the holiday, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have family living all around me. It makes me feel safe as we all try to look out for one another.

One of my dear cousins lives down the road from me and we try to get together at least once a week to catch up on life. In fact, she watches my dog, my sweet Daisy, when I am at work. She offered for Daisy to come to her house and stay during the day, so having family around is really a blessing.

My cousin keeps up with a holiday countdown and knows exactly how many days there are until Christmas. About a month ago she reminded how many days were left, and I was shocked. I remember thinking, "Wow, I don't have long to buy all of the gifts I usually purchase nor do I have the money." It is good to be reminded of how closet the holiday is, but it shouldn't add stress to our lives.

According to Medline Plus, everyone feels stressed from time to time, but not all stress is bad. All animals have a stress response that can be life-saving. But chronic stress can cause both physical and mental harm.

There are at least three different types of stress:

  • Routine stress related to the pressures of work, family and other daily responsibilities.

  • Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce or illness.

  • Traumatic stress, which happens when you are in danger of being seriously hurt or killed. Examples include a major wreck, war, assault or a natural disaster. This type of stress can cause post-traumatic stress disorder.

People feel stress in different ways. Some experience digestive symptoms; others may have headaches, sleeplessness, depressed mood, anger and irritability. People under chronic stress get more frequent and severe viral infections, such as the flu or common cold. Vaccines, such as the flu shot, are less effective for them.

Some people cope with stress more effectively than others. It's important to know your limits when it comes to stress, so you can avoid more serious health effects.

What is Dec. 25th to you? Is it a day to be with family? Is it a day to celebrate the birth of our savior? Is it a day to eat a lot of good food?

Christmas nor the days before it should cause stress.

When I think of Christmas and the past, I think about being with family. My paternal grandmother use me one gift it each year; it was always a practical gift. I recall her giving socks; she always gave my father socks or underwear. That is something we could always use, right? She always had a table of food and a special dessert for each one of her children and grandchildren. Most importantly, there was always a house full of family.

Everyone should have a traditional, non-stressful Christmas to remember. If you do not have that then start this year. Invite your family to your house and have a gift exchange or have everyone bring their favorite dish. If gift giving is important then make sure to make it simple and stress free.

If your family is far away and you cannot travel then start thinking of others around you in that same situation. If that is not possible then spend time at a nursing facility or rehabilitation center.

Most important, limit the stress and enjoy the day. We are all blessed in some way and having people close to you is a blessing.

— Tami Putnam is a Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent for Gregg County.

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