Life is stressful enough without holidays. Beginning tomorrow and packed into every day until the year ends, parties, dinners, dances, concerts, gifts, decorating, cooking, kids, cousins, parents, grandparents will all multiply till they wring yelps of psychic pain from even the blithest spirits. It is the background music for the holiday season.
Really, it’s no wonder. How can any ordinary human deal with the demands of the next few weeks, especially when you consider that off-Island there is a wretched supplementary catalogue of worldwide woe.
There are the wars, the drones, the nuclear proliferation, the refugees, the deficit, Obamacare, the filibusters or the lack of them, typhoons, tornadoes, blizzards, the real estate market, the tippity-top in the stock markets. It’s a world of worry.
Then there is the contempt in which we are held by sadists, totalitarians, bombers, cave-dwellers, the globally faint-hearted, and the fanatics here and abroad. There are the politicians, all baying about how off track everything is. It’s miraculous that any of those clamorous Eeyores can manage to put one foot stumblingly in front of another.
Worst of all, here it is Thanksgiving, and we will just have to find a way to deal with the good will and the holiday spirit that’s about to belabor us.
Right off the bat, there’s the Friday shopping kickoff for Christmas gift buying. I don’t know what to buy for anybody. I haven’t given it a thought. When I’m wandering around Hyannis Mall Friday morning, I just know I’ll miss every one of the great bargains. That’s stressful.
Plus turkey choices. They’ve multiplied. Once, the sure bet, the only choice was the Butterball, self-basting, laced with chemicals and salt, with an installed pop-up that tells you when it’s done. Once it’s in the oven you can turn your attention to the marshmallow yams. But, it turns out the Butterball will make a buttball out of you. Low stress, but it’s high fat. Today, you want a free range turkey, an organic or a holistic one and you want to soak it in a brine. Prep time expands, lifetimes may or may not.
I read Jane Brody’s Personal Health column in the New York Times every Tuesday. She’s up on everything and full of common sense. I figure if I pay attention and don’t miss a column, I’ll find out just in the nick of time what I absolutely have to stop — or start — doing or eating or thinking to evade the deathblow that I’m assure is lurking in my lifestyle.
“What many doctors fail to take into account,” Ms. Brody has written, “is the effect of a constant or off-repeated outpouring of these hormones on physical well-being. It is now known, for example, that undue stress inhibits the responsiveness of the immune system, especially the natural killer cells and macrophages that are the first-line warriors against infection and foreign invaders like cancer cells.”
It’s just what I always feared.
“Chronic stress,” she added, “can also raise blood pressure and blood sugar, constrict major arteries and interfere with normal digestive processes. These effects, in turn increase the risk of hypertension, heart disease, strokes, chronic reflux disease, diarrhea or constipation, and insulin resistance, the precursor of Type Two diabetes.” She’s not just talking about that Butterball in your fridge or on your sofa. Finally, Ms. Brody gives us a break, “But enough of the bad news.” Amen, I say.
Ms. Brody counsels pre-planning, no procrastination, delegating some of the work, and being realistic about what you can accomplish. She sounds like my mother, no, like my Aunt Agnes.
Her advice is nothing if not harshly realistic. “Grin and bear it,” she writes. “For those people you have to see but would rather not, like the aunt who is always telling you what to do, the brother-in-law who brags incessantly or the cousin who regales you with details about every one of her ailments, either ignore them or try to take them less seriously. See if you can find some humor instead of annoyance in the situation.” She does not mean making fun of the tiresome relative.
Exercise can help. “Try an hour’s brisk walk with one or more friends five or more days a week; your body and your mind will be ever so grateful.” Alternatively, you can get needed exercise by turning on your heel and fleeing the aunt or the cousin or the brother-in-law. If nothing else, it will get you out of the house and into the clear air.