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Feeling stressed? Help someone

November 27, 2009|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Do a search on the Internet for holiday stress and you will find 20,900,000 resources at your fingertips.

It's no secret that we have issues with this time of year. Why else would we need so much guidance?

Out of curiosity, I looked at some of the tips.

Most of them focused on:

1. Not overspending.

2. Not overeating.

3. Being physically active.

4. Getting enough rest.

5. Having realistic expectations.

Those five tips were essentially restated 20,900,000 times. Different ways, different formats, but basically the same information.

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(No, I did not check all of those Web sites, but after looking at few, the themes became repetitious.)

The curious thing is that most of the tips centered on the "I, me, my" part of the season. Isn't that ironic? In a season that is supposed to emphasize giving to and doing for others, most of the stress-fighting tips are focused inward.

To me, that seems backward.

Refreshingly, there were a few sites that recommended reaching out. On the Mayo Clinic Web site, www.mayoclinic.com, the tips included one that struck a chord: "If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events ... Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships."

Meeting someone else's need can be an unexpected balm for stress.

How can that be? Once a focus is changed, feelings follow.

Being a help to someone doesn't have to take all day, all afternoon or even a full hour.

Some of the sweetest blessings take only a few minutes.

As I was formulating a plan to give a few minutes of blessings to others each day this holiday season, I unexpectedly was the recipient of this concept.

On the way home from work one day, my son told me he and some friends had decided to have an impromptu, afternoon get-together. He felt confident he could meet friends before participating in a choir performance later in the evening. The plan: I would drop him at a friend's house, and the friend's mom and I would meet later at a central location.

The only problem, we realized, was that my son was in casual clothes, but the choir performance was dressy. He asked me if I could gather the clothing items he needed from home and bring them with me to the rendezvous. Sure, I said; no problem.

My son started listing all the items he needed. It was hard for me to concentrate on his mental list and drive at the same time, plus I was weary from my work day. I think he sensed this, so he turned to his 10-year-old sister and said, "Can you help her remember all this?"

She assured him that she would.

When we arrived home, I started dinner, put in a load of laundry and graded some papers. After dinner, I walked upstairs to my son's room to collect all the clothing items he needed. Surprisingly, his suit, shirt and tie were on his bed. Even his dress shoes and socks were pulled out of his closet.

I approached my daughter, and started to ask, "Did you --"

"Oh, yes, Mommy," she said with a big smile. "I love you."

At that moment, I felt loved by her act of kindness, but I noticed something else. Her spirit seemed lifted, too. When we first got home, she was tired from her school day. Doing something unexpected for someone else lifted her spirits. She was singing a song as I walked away.

I felt like singing, too.

This holiday season, do an unexpected act of kindness for someone. It's a great way to combat stress.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page.

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