Natalia Temesgen

Natalia Naman Temesgen: How to survive holiday stress

Thanksgiving is almost here and holiday shopping will formally kick off on Black Friday. Many of us are bracing ourselves for the elevated stress levels that are almost inevitable this time of year.

We are about to embark on the holiday season in earnest.

Thanksgiving is almost here and holiday shopping will formally kick off on Black Friday. Many of us are bracing ourselves for the elevated stress levels that are almost inevitable this time of year.

Whether you're budgeting your way through a long list of gifts, dealing with not-so-pleasant friends or relatives in town for the holidays, or even working to integrate more spiritual time into the season, there will be that moment when you're standing in an epic grocery line with a shopping basket overflowing in your arms -- because you only planned to pick up a few things, so who needs a cart? -- and you ask yourself, "Can it please be summer now?"

How do you cope when the festivities grow fangs?

Maybe exercise is your outlet. If so, a cold jog around the block might refresh your body and your spirit. Maybe you will set up an early morning coffee date with a good friend to decompress. Sometimes hearing that you aren't crazy for how you're feeling is all you need to achieve "normal" again.

If you're anything like me, your answer might lie in your overflowing grocery basket. I believe calories aren't just a way to survive holiday stress; they're a way to generate holiday joy!

I love to bake. Every year, I expect to gain weight around this time, and frankly, it doesn't bother me. Statistics say 75 percent of Americans gain weight in the final quarter of the year. (So there.)

Honestly, holiday treats are worth more than your average Snickers bar. They carry a lot of love, especially when they are homemade. You may pick gingerly at our great aunt's fruitcake, but that doesn't change the warm feeling you get when you consider how she finds the time and energy to bake it every year without fail.

What's particularly amazing about the holiday baking process is how similar it can be to alchemy. Alchemists turn coal into gold. Baking for the holidays turns the little bit of coal that's compounding in your Grinch-y heart into gold too! There's nothing like channeling your stress and frustration into a beautiful cake recipe, then marveling at the genuine happiness you feel when the very source of your stress takes a bite of the cake and melts into a big smile.

This time of year, we serve others in the kitchen. And unlike on your average weeknight, the cooking isn't forced upon one chef. This is a collaborative experience. Family and friends, young and old, find themselves in the thick of holiday madness with a bunch of knives, but they aren't using them on each other. It's the carrots that get chopped, the dough that gets beaten, and the Boston butt that gets fried, not yours.

Seriously, take a deep breath when holiday stress descends and release it in the kitchen. It's a win-win.

-- Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent correspondent. Contact her at nataliadian1@gmail.com or on Twitter@cafeaulazy.

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