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Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.
– John Locke  
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 8 August 2019  

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Michelle Barrette

  By Michelle Barrette

   “December is full of the beauty of light and love we can bring into our life.You can choose to be stressed or you can choose to let the small stuff go and be peaceful this holiday season.
   It really is a choice you make.”
   Eileen Anglin

   In 2017, the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, an agricultural promotion group made up mainly of blueberry farmers, commissioned a study to examine people’s stress levels during the holiday season. The “festive stress” study ran throughout the month of December.
   The study showed that the mild-to-high-stress timeline starts Dec. 18 and peaks on Christmas Day.
   I remember last Christmas the stress started at our house when the lights on the Christmas tree went out just before Christmas Day. For some, it might not have been a big deal, but the grandkids were there; and the lights were important for that sought-out “perfect” family Christmas. My son-in-law Mark painstakingly went through each strand of lights (dodging the ornaments and the fire hazard); and, after what seemed like hours, he found the burned-out fuse. The day was saved. However, a couple of days later, Mark went out on the deck to cover the grill; and his foot went through a loose board. If the board had completely broken, it could have been disastrous. ’Tis the reason we call that year’s Christmas the “Year we Tried to Kill Mark at Christmas.”
   Anyway, back to the study. Apparently, people cope with stress by creating more stress through large amounts of caffeine, carbs and sugar. Forty-nine percent of people studied said they drank more coffee during the holidays; and one in six consumed more energy drinks. But the majority — 74 percent — overindulged on unhealthy snacks and treats. And then the stress got worse: 60 percent polled experienced nagging guilt after consuming all those calories.
   According to the respondents, 56 percent said shopping for gifts was the most stressful aspect of the holidays; 54 percent cited lines and crowds; 45 percent were stressed by extra cleaning duties; 38 percent didn’t like trying to choose gifts for people; and 36 percent (I thought this would be higher) said holiday cooking topped their list of holiday stressors.
   Forty-one percent of the study-subjects had the impractical desire to have the “perfect Christmas” — and 49 percent of moms put more pressure on themselves to achieve a flawless holiday season.
   Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, whatever, the expectations for a flawless season can be overwhelming — and depressing.
   While many people are hustling and bustling to get things done, others are experiencing something else — the holiday season can be the saddest and loneliest time of the year for some.
   The holidays are associated with family, and often family issues like loss, dysfunction, addiction, abuse, divorce and estrangement cause more stress that can lead to depression. For a person already dealing with depression and loneliness, the holidays can be gruesome.
   According to the American Psychological Association, about 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the United States suffer from chronic loneliness. The holidays can be devastating for people who are alone, many of them elderly.
   So, when we think about being stressed because of over-eating, over-shopping, over-cleaning, over-cooking, over-partying and so on; remember that none of that is important. As the quote states, being stressed is a choice. And, by the way, it’s surprising how good one feels when they give back to someone. So, go caroling at the nursing home, take cookies to an older neighbor, donate, volunteer — and give yourself a break.
   And to put the holidays in perspective, I am grateful for what I do have, as I think about the victims of the California fires and just how fast our lives can change.
   Be safe this holiday season. As I write this, multiple accidents have been reported in eastern El Paso County, including Falcon and Black Forest, because of icy roads.
   Also, our monthly feature, People on the Plains, will return in January. Our “person” for December decided she did not want to be interviewed.
   Up next month: our annual health issue. If you have any ideas for health-related articles, send them to or
   As we look into 2019, we are always interested in your opinion on how we can improve or add to our newspaper. Let us know what you want to see!
   Happy Hanukkah, Merry Winter Solstice and Merry Christmas!
   See you in January.
   - Michelle
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