April E. Clark
April in Glenwood

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December 10, 2013
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Finding my Christmas spirit

I have a giant fear I’ve become a real-life Grinch, Scrooge, or some Cruella de Vil-like holiday hater out to destroy Christmas.

Maybe I should start going by Aprilla de Grooge.

As much as they are meant for celebration, the holidays can sometimes be a downright bummer. This is the time of year when companies cut employees because they didn’t meet their bottom lines and want to start the new year off lighter. Adults lose their cool, fighting over last-minute presents for their kids in toy aisles. Or sometimes the stress of it all makes people turn on each other and they skip Christmas entirely.

That last one is actually a plot to a movie.

This Christmas season is the first I’ve ever spent without my grandfather, and I’m definitely feeling his absence. So I thought it would help to search for some tips to prevent holiday stress and depression. On its website, the Mayo Clinic has suggestions that include planning ahead, reaching out — which really does help — and being realistic. I’m working on it. I know this year might not be the perfect Christmas.

But it will be a year of change and personal growth.

While I leave myself open to advice about coping with loss this time of year, I am also a creature of habit. When I’m down, I’ve found myself wallowing at a pity party only I’m invited to attend. Sometimes I forget how much of a relief it is to simply reach out to friends instead of solving an issue on my own.

Thankfully for my sanity, they always find a way to make me laugh.

I agree with that old saying that laughter is the best medicine. It’s as homeopathic as it gets. After reading the tips on holiday stress, I noticed a link about how much laughter really does the body good. Laughter has been proven to improve the immune system. Stress literally makes us sick. According to the Mayo Clinic piece, neuropeptides released in the body from positivity and happiness help us fight that stress that leads to illness.

Bring on the neuropeptides.

Laughter has also been proven to be a natural painkiller and can be used as a coping mechanism for difficult situations. That’s probably why at memorial services I’m inclined to recall the funny stories from a person’s life. I like to look back on the good times and laugh.

And when it comes to the funny stuff, I have quite the memory.

Since I really don’t like the idea of spending Christmas as a grumpy Aprilla de Grooge character, I’ve decided to focus on the positive. Even though this has been one of those difficult years, I have many reasons to be happy in this life. My family is a group of helpful, loving and kind people with a great collective sense of humor.

We laugh at some strange stuff.

I have friends who love me for me, which is saying a lot, because I can be a handful. Hopefully that’s a happy, laughter-inducing kind of handful. My wish for my friends this season is that if they ever need me as much as I’ve required their love and support, they never hesitate to call. I have been so blessed that people show me they care in so many ways.

I also need to remember that sometimes I need to make that call first.

Most importantly, I do not want to take for granted my good health. There’s no need to be a meanie at Christmas when there are so many others — especially innocent children — who spend the holidays in hospital beds when they wish they could be home gathering around the tree opening presents on Christmas morning. I hope they can find some laughter from their own funny family members, a Dr. Seuss Christmas cartoon, or a brand-new toy.

I know laughter has saved my life over the years.

I’m also fortunate in being able to celebrate the holidays around my friends’ kids. They always make me laugh. Art Linkletter wasn’t joking when he created “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” because they really do. Lately some of the older kids think it’s funny to tease me about my dating life.

That’s always funny.

They like to suggest I go out with “so-and-so who’s single, too,” usually someone not quite my type, just to see my reaction. This joking around makes me smile, and I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing this season than that.

There better be some neuropeptides in my stocking this year.

— April E. Clark also hopes there’s an orange in her stocking. Santa never forgets. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.


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The Post Independent Updated Dec 10, 2013 10:28PM Published Dec 10, 2013 10:28PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.