Guest Commentary: ’Tis the season for joy and maybe a little stress

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Michelle A. Taylor is the president and CEO of United Way of Delaware.

Thanksgiving is here, the weather has turned colder, and the party invitations are starting to arrive.

I love this time of year, when we make a special effort to see family and friends. Some of us have grown children and grandchildren who travel home to see us, bringing such joy to the season. Yet, as the activity level rises, often, so does the stress.

Lack of sleep, excess eating or beverages and financial stress contribute to holiday stress and even depression. Mental health professionals have a name for the feelings some people feel this time of year — holiday blues.

We all need to be aware of our mental health during the holidays; at the minimum, we need to remember to slow down and take care of ourselves. As for family, friends and co-workers who may not be surrounded by loved ones, check in on them, especially during holidays. Changes in their appetite or weight, increasing irritability, a lack of interest and difficulty concentrating can be signs they’re experiencing holiday blues and stress.

Even though I love shopping, choosing gifts sometimes gives me stress. I want to choose just the right gift for every person on my list. Will it fit? Is it the right color? Do they already have one? Then, there’s the wrapping. And the external pressure — Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday — all urging us to buy! Buy now! Buy today! Buy two!

I don’t have anything against gifts — in fact, I really like them. But for me, commercialism and pressure take away some of the joy of the season. Perhaps it does that to you, too.

Here’s a thought: While you’re gathered around the Thanksgiving table with family and friends, could you ask others if they feel the stress? See if they might react positively to a proposal to buy less, put a cap on dollars spent per gift or maybe even take on a Secret Santa instead of buying a gift for everyone. How about proposing donations to nonprofits or buying for families in need, instead of the family gift exchange.

And, while it’s a little self-serving (well, more than a little?), I might suggest you all could pitch in and make one communal donation to United Way of Delaware to support our work on early education, college and career readiness, financial stability and racial justice.

With your gift today, you’re contributing to a better tomorrow for our communities and our state. And because we have a matching gift challenge, your gift in November will be matched dollar for dollar and have twice the impact.

As we gear up for the holidays, please be aware that the extra activities of the season can take a toll on you and those around you. Please stay vigilant.

My wish for you is an uncomplicated, stress-free, relaxing holiday season that’s filled with love and quality time spent with friends and family.

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