This time of year is supposed to be all bright and full of good cheer, but for some reason I always find myself stressed out. Maybe it's vestigial from years of school exams, maybe I just overreact because any stressors are the opposite of my expectation, or maybe the world directly around me really does lose its mind whenever we get to December.

In any case, there are a few known remedies for stress like this:

1) Holiday cookies and cakes. I am a terrible cook (usually by choice because it just doesn't interest me much), but around Thanksgiving I start brushing off my dusty pans and cookie sheets. Buttermilk pie, shoo-fly pie, bourbon pecan pie, chocolate chip cookies, Swedish wedding cookies (which some folks call "Mexican Wedding Cookies" or "Russian Tea Cake Cookies," which makes me suspect these cookies are from none of these places), and some family specialties like these rum-glazed ball-shaped butterscotch cookies we make, or our own version of rum balls. Mmm, excuse me, I need to run to the kitchen and start baking.

2) Breathe. Yep, just breathe. Practice yoga with careful breath, or just do some simple meditation. I know yoga and meditation and mindfulness are a cliche now, but there are some real benefits. I started practicing yoga my senior year of college after my mother kindly suggested that maybe I should find some activity to help me chill out, and yoga has been part of my life ever since.

3) Disappear into the woods. There's no better full mental reset than packing up some basic things and going backpacking for a few days. Leave the gadgets, turn off the phone, and just be a dirty hippie hiker. It's a time commitment, but it works.

4) Run your heart out. Run run run run run. I started really running in high school, partly to train for spring soccer and partly to de-stress. This is probably my go-to first instinct for relieving some stress, and I have so many memories of cranking up the music from an iPod or later a smart phone and running down the road.

Because what's more adorable than a puppy dressed up as a run-fanatic? And Ryder was so cute at this age!

5) Make something. There's a lot to be said about art therapy, and that can apply to photography, drawing, painting, music, dance, or anything artistically made and expressed. Channel your angst! Make something absurd.

One of my works in progress.

So that's my quick list. What helps you de-stress?


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