Post by Jenny
Stress, I mean. The word has an automatic negative connotation, but according to psychologists, we experience more than one type of stress. In 1975, endocrinologist Hans Selye divided stress into two major categories: eustress and distress. Eustress is “good” stress, which gives us positive feelings such as excitement or fulfillment. And distress? We all know what that gives us. (So do the Pepto-Bismol people.)
Both types cause similar physical sensations, so a body might not be able to identify the stress it’s under. But a brain sure can. Brains are like the Brother P-Touch™—they put labels on everything. A brain knows when to feel “energetic” as opposed to “frenzied,” or “thrilled” instead of “terrified.” As writers know, word choice can make all the difference.
Writing provides both eu- and dis-stress, though not necessarily in equal proportions—just like life, right? Preparing a contest submission, solving a plotting dilemma, signing a contract, and the times when creativity flows like an electrical current—those are very “eu.” On the flip side, rejections, swiftly approaching deadlines, and the dreaded writer’s block—all “dis.”
Being able to balance both kinds of stress comes in handy during the holidays, too, when the joy of spending time with family and friends goes head-to-head with the vexation of the endless to-do list. Festivities and fun vs. finances and frustration. When I start to feel as if I’m in the middle of a smack-down between the fantasy of a perfect Christmas and the reality of what I’m able to accomplish, I know it’s time to take a break and curl up with a cup of tea and some holiday-themed diversions.
I typically do more reading in December than writing, and here are three books I’ve enjoyed this season:
I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas, by Lewis Black. It’s a laugh-out-loud Christmas rant from the acerbic comedian (profanity alert!), but with some surprisingly poignant and wise moments.
Christmas Curiosities – Odd, Dark, and Forgotten Christmas, by John Grossman. Devils, drunks, and switch-wielding Santas—this is a fascinating collection of some of the stranger holiday themes of years past. (I’ve never before seen witches on a Christmas card.)
Christmas’s Most Wanted, by Kevin Cuddihy and Phillip Metcalfe. It’s an entire book of holiday Top Ten Lists (yay!), including Christmas movies, music, and traditions; people who were born and who died on Christmas; reindeer facts; and much more.
And my holiday season would not be complete without two of my favorite funny films: Christmas Vacation and Elf.
How do you chill out this time of year?