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How The Gift Of Connection Can Help Boomers Reduce Holiday Stress

Feb 14, 2008
As you daydream about the upcoming holidays, do you envision universal goals such as sustaining our planet's resources, leaving a smaller carbon footprint, developing more energy independence? Are you busy trying to figure out how to reduce the level of stress in your life? For many Sandwiched Boomers, this time of year is much more exhausting than inspiring.

The most common symptoms of stress can appear at any time in any form:

* Physiological - headaches, stomach upset
* Emotional - feeling irritated, overwhelmed
* Cognitive - trouble concentrating, memory loss
* Behavioral - overeating, physical withdrawal

Stress is the body's response to any stimulus, either external or internal, that is perceived as taxing personal resources. Perhaps gift giving is your source of anxiety, worrying that a better blackberry will hit the market next week. Or food becomes your comfort, and challenge, as you find yourself eating the cookie dough instead of baking it. At the annual office party, notice when you're focused on the buffet table instead of chatting with co-workers. You may be creating more stress for yourself by sticking to the old familiar routine and operating on automatic pilot.

Of course you don't want to feel agitated during the festive season. We know that your goal is to keep your life in balance yet still honor the complexity of Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa. Try to understand what it is about the holiday that is most significant to you. And then decide to focus on what you want to do, not on what you have to do.

Begin to lay the groundwork for gradual change in your gift giving rituals. Use the following eight practical tips to help you keep your stress in check as you focus on more joy and less material stuff:

1. Reach out and enjoy reconnecting with people from your past. Send a holiday card and catch up with an old friend or a family member with whom you've lost contact.

2. Invest time instead of money when deciding about gift giving. Drive your elderly neighbor to his doctor's appointment or take your widowed aunt grocery shopping.

3. Enjoy your friends during this season by inviting them to a potluck dinner and cut down further on expenses by exchanging recipes instead of gifts.

4. Give the gift of yourself where it will really be appreciated. Arrange a regular museum date or evening at the movies with your parents.

5. Add a personal touch and express yourself creatively by making some of your own presents for family and friends.

6. Be grateful for what you have and put the focus on others in need - volunteer at a soup kitchen, take gifts to a homeless shelter or donate to a center for battered women.

7. Give a gift to yourself. Enjoy a weekend away with your spouse or spend a day at the zoo with your grandchildren.

8. Enjoy peace of mind by paying off your debts instead of taking the family on an expensive outing. Look through the eyes of your children and decide together how to spend the day. Your family will understand and grow from the experience.

Let go of the idea of the perfect holiday - it doesn't have to look like a Norman Rockwell painting. You'll discover that small changes can mean the beginning of a new chapter in your hectic life. Take heart as you embrace and celebrate the simplicity of the moment. Use it as a template for the future. And joy to you and yours as you journey toward greater connections.

Her Mentor Center, 2007
About the Author
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. & Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are founders of http://www.HerMentorCenter.com, a website for midlife women and http://www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com, a blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomers and family relationships. They offer free newsletter Stepping Stones.
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