Holiday Stress? It hits most of us every year about this time and only gets worse as the calendar races toward a new year.
Here’s a little travel romance to distract you from all those seasonal obligations—you know, family, cooking, gifts. This is a teaser excerpt.
“I assume you’re stuck here like the rest of us,” a man’s voice rumbled.
Giselle startled and turned. Chatting with other passengers ranked near the top of her ‘never’ list. Today especially she wasn’t up to social niceties. She bit her tongue, resisting the urge to unload on this guy. Whoever he was.
The man stood just a couple of feet away, pushing the boundaries of her personal space. She assessed him with her practiced cold once-over, normally enough to send the offender on his way. This guy gazed back defiantly and had the brass to smile.
Why oh why did she spontaneously smile back? It wasn’t her norm, but there was something about him. Disarming. Curious.
Even as she dragged her gaze away, her mental once-over slowed to a closer examination. As strangers go, he didn’t fall into the sicko or predator category. Tall and well-built, he dressed in a hard-to-read style with jeans, white polo shirt, and dark blue sports jacket. In comparison, she seemed overdressed in her short pumps and smartly tailored gray suit.
Her pulse increased ever so slightly. Whatever consideration she might be giving him must have to do with her absolutely wretched mood, because there was no logic in it. With a lift of her chin, she suppressed her smile. Give him an inch, he’d never quit.
“Flight 289?” she said. “Yes, I think all of us at Gate 12 have that in mind.”
His cocked eyebrow and knowing smile caught her off-guard. “You’re annoyed.”
His expression yelled ‘meet your bet and raise you.’ She huffed and shifted, turning slightly away from him. “Nothing personal,” she said.
“It never fails,” he mused in a conversational tone, turning to look out on the stream of people passing by and releasing his grip on a small bag to drop it by his feet. “Worst possible time of year to travel. And then weather.”
“Hmm,” she replied, not wanting to encourage him. Surely he’d wander off soon. She’d definitely appreciate him wandering off. Heat rose up her chest, an unwarranted reaction to something about him—maybe his aftershave, a scent she didn’t want to acknowledge much less analyze. It reminded her of autumn in the woods, slightly sharp, a hint of musk. And hell, she was analyzing.
“Going or coming?” he ventured, turning his face back toward her with a quizzical expression. “If you don’t mind me asking.”
Yes, I mind you asking. I mind you intruding into my privacy. I mind you thinking what you’re thinking.
Which was absurd, she corrected herself. She didn’t know what he was thinking. But then, she really did. There was no way to miss the husky tone of his voice. This jerk was trying to pick her up.
A flash of him kissing her shot through her mind. She couldn’t avoid a quick glance at his mouth. Firm lips, a teasing smile—damn it. Of all the… This was absurd. Whatever little fantasy had wormed its way into the back of her mind, it could just worm itself into the trash bin. Why did she let this guy get under her skin? She was a strong self-assured woman, not some giddy teenager on her first date.
“Going,” she said briskly. “And you?”
“Going. Family for the big feast mixed with some business,” he said, folding his arms and leaning sideways against the big pillar so that his attention focused on her.
Oh, yeah, he had qualities. Something about the line of his thigh tugging at the jeans. Or the width of his shoulders as the sports jacket pulled tight. Was it completely insane to be attracted to someone on a random meeting?
No. She gave a mental shake of her head. This was lack of sleep and the hangover of emotional dreams. Revisionist memories at their worst, playing out in real life with a blank slate of a man she’d known less than five minutes. Hell, she didn’t know him at all. He could be a fucking serial killer.
Aside from burying your holiday struggles with romantic stories, what else can you do if the season brings you stress?
Here are some good suggestions from a Mayo Clinic website article from October 2014:
- Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
- Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
- Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
- Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
- Give homemade gifts.
- Start a family gift exchange.
- Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
- Get plenty of sleep.Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
- Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.Some options may include:
- Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Getting a massage.
- Reading a book.
- Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.