Health & Medicine

Of wonder women and the holidays

I love the holidays. But they are a lot of work. And it’s no secret that the vast majority of those yuletide duties fall squarely on my holly-laden shoulders.

For instance, I’ve been searching all year for the just-right Christmas card photo. I buy gifts whenever I find them, then stash them away like acorns until I put them under the tree. I order the turkey for Christmas dinner in mid-December and start cooking two weeks before the big day.

Nobody’s forcing me to do all this. The duties are completely self-imposed. Still, these activities are what turn December into Christmas. And if I didn’t do them, they wouldn’t get done.

Like nearly every woman I know, I’m the designated nurturer in our clan. I do my best to assure that my husband, sons and father have most of what they want and need.

I assume this mantle naturally. I’m psychologically suited for the task in many ways. Plus, no one else is vying for the office. When Mom passed away nearly seven years ago, I immediately inherited the role of Family Matriarch and all the trappings that accompany the job.

One of those duties is creating Christmas, an assignment I take very seriously. I know that the effects of my efforts run much deeper than gift bags and rum balls. I’m providing stability and security for my men. The oldest member of the group feels comforted when he’s surrounded by loving family. The youngest members get a heaping dose of emotional grounding when they’re back under our roof. They’re subconsciously infused with longstanding traditions they may choose to carry into their futures.

Without my yuletide footwork their season would be pretty bleak. They wouldn’t know how to get started. They’d be lost, adrift in the holiday hoopla. They’d miss my feminine influence. Hopefully, a kind family would invite them to their home.

This isn’t to say my guys are helpless; far from it. Each is incredibly capable in a multitude of arenas. But nurturing themselves during the holidays isn’t one of them. For that they look homeward, toward me.

My role as Santa’s CEO isn’t all drudgery. Ho ho hos abound in our lives this time of year. I love making candied almonds for our friends. Home canned products from our orchard will be shipped to siblings in distant ZIP codes. We make an annual jaunt down to Santa Maria to see the PCPA holiday show.

I also make it a point to keep things simple. I focus on those aspects of the season that are most meaningful and keep a distance from those events that I find distracting. Being with friends is really important, so we plan early who we’re going to see. Shopping, on the other hand, is worse than childbirth. I get panic attacks just thinking about going into Costco.

My men do a lot to help. Hubby makes to-die-for gravy and takes pride in selecting the perfect wine for the holiday feast. The boys are completely at home in the kitchen and willingly roll up their sleeve to pitch in wherever needed.

They’re also thoughtful gift givers. Each thinks long and hard about what he gives. When I open their gifts on Christmas morning I’m always touched by what they’ve done.

Still, Christmas as our family knows it wouldn’t happen if I weren’t around. This month I join countless women as we heft our seasonal packfuls of duties and descend that chimney for those we love. We recognize the value of our efforts. It’s an amazing gift we give.

Tips for staying balanced during the holiday season

To avoid burnout during the holidays, keep these strategies in mind:

Make calm and sanity your first priority. No one wants you frazzled. Avoid tasks that put you over the edge.

Exercise. Don’t get so busy that you forget to go to the gym or take that walk with your friends. Exercise is the perfect stress reducer and it’s vital for your emotional and physical health.

Maintain your perspective. It’s only the holidays, for goodness sakes. There’s no need to overreact.

Keep things simple and manageable. Everyone will appreciate your attitude.

Enlist help. Don’t be a martyr. Ask others to do their share. If it’s not important enough to them to do, perhaps it doesn’t get done.

Be happy. This season is meant to be joyful. If it’s not, you’re doing something wrong. Let go of activities that are stressful and replace them with serenity and peace.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit