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  SAMPLE RECENT WRITING by Judy Shepps Battle
  -- ADHD: Not Just Boys
  -- Agony and Ecstasy
  -- Anniversary of Sept. 11
  -- Bariatric Surgery
  -- Beginning Fitness at 60
  -- Behavioral Modification
  -- Bright Underachiever
  -- Child Obesity
  -- Dropping Out of School
  -- Forgiveness
  -- Gay Marriage
  -- Generation Gap
  -- Helping Children Grieve
  -- Holiday Gift Giving
  -- Inpatient Treatment
  -- Losing a Battle (Jim)
  -- No Kill Animal Shelters
  -- Reducing Holiday Stress
  -- Residential Treatment
  -- Talking About Alcohol
  -- Teen Opiate Abuse
  -- Teen Sports Drug Abuse
  -- Why Bright Kids Fail
  -- Birds of Wisdom
  -- Chant
  -- Confidence Ebbs
  -- Connected
  -- Holding Nothing
  -- In the Now
  -- Timeless Evolution

  -- Reducing Holiday Stress

Kids and Community: Reducing Holiday Stress
By Judy Shepps Battle
Thanksgiving, the official beginning of the winter holiday season, is upon us. I really love the magic of this time of year -- the gift-giving and celebrating spiritual miracles.
But the coming weeks also will be a time of excess, when we are urged to spend more than we can afford, eat more than is healthy, and drink more alcoholic beverages than perhaps we normally consume.

All of these activities, although designed to make us happy, can take a heavy toll on our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being during the holiday season -- as well as afterward, when credit card statements appear in our mailboxes, and our bathroom scales remind us that we overindulged.
What, then, can we do to avoid, minimize or cope with such stress?
I am a diabetic. For me, increased stress instantly converts to a rise in my blood-sugar level. During the holiday season I test my sugar levels frequently, and as soon as my glucometer reads above 120 (the recommended reading) I know it is time to find a quiet place to relax and re-examine the types of food I have been consuming.
For some people, stress manifests as headache, back pain, or stomach ailments. Fatigue is another sign of stress, as is insomnia or excessive sleeping. Whatever the symptom, we all should be aware when our bodies are rebelling against our lifestyle.
Prevention may well be the best medicine for holiday-induced stress. Taking time out on a regular basis to listen to quiet music, practice deep breathing, and/or exercise aerobically gives our bodies the best chance of being stress-free.
Its also critical to be aware of "H.A.L.T" feelings -- being hungry, angry, lonely, and tired -- and to take immediate action to address these feelings.

Eating healthy foods on a regular basis, pounding away angry feelings on a punching bag or pillow, helping those less fortunate, maintaining a social network, and getting enough sleep are invaluable insurance policies against both physical and emotional stress.
We all have our own vision of the perfect holiday celebration. For many, it is a close-knit family gathered around the table, exchanging meaningful gifts, warm hugs and loving words of encouragement.

It is the family that we may have never experienced growing up.
But what can we do about the negative character of a loved one, for example, or about the bickering and dissatisfaction that may dominate the holiday feast? What if some family members drink to excess and/or become obnoxious?
One strategy is to simply change our expectations and focus on ourselves. My friend Mark Sichel, author of Healing from Family Rifts, says:
"We all have, within ourselves, the key to having a wonderful holiday season. If we keep the 'expectation ball' in our court, keep ourselves focused on what we can control, and act in a way that makes us feel proud of and pleased with ourselves, even the most dysfunctional family scenario can be coped with."
It is good to remember that, from a spiritual perspective, Christmas is about the miracle of the birth of a baby into a very poor family. It is about the God-consciousness or goodness that is in each of us and the importance of fostering this quality.
Similarly, Chanukah also is the story of a miracle -- a tiny jug of oil, enough for only one day, kept the candle lit for eight days. The light in the temple is symbolic of the light of goodness within each of us, of our connection with God and the importance of living this connection in all our relationships.
I find that keeping a daily journal of personal miracles produces gratitude for what is truly important in my life. I include the ongoing miracles of the health of my children and grandchildren, the love I have received all my life from friends and family, the serenity that always has been mine to choose, and my personal relationship with the divine.
Each day I list the kindness of strangers, my joy in the experience, and how good it feels to say thank you. And that, in essence, is what makes this holiday season truly magical.

Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at writeaction@aol.com. Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at http://www.writeaction.com/.

Copyright 2006 Judy Shepps Battle

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