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5 ways for nurses to stress less during the holiday season

iStock | bbbrrn

iStock | bbbrrn

“Well, come on guys, we gotta do something!”

Those are the words that strike fear into my heart this time of year. It’s bad enough that we have to work one major and one minor holiday over the winter. Add in shopping and cooking and wrangling your particular traditional decorations, and people at work wanting to do something will send you over the edge.

“Something” usually means a potluck, a white elephant gift exchange or some other fun activity that only adds to the seasonal stress. How do you cope? By making your outside-work (aka “real”) life as stress-free as possible.

1. Online shopping is key here. I don’t think I’ve set foot in an actual brick-and-mortar retailer since I started nursing school. Instead, I order everything online, have it gift-wrapped and shipped, and call it a day. The extra five bucks for wrapping is SO. WORTH. IT.

2. If your hospital has a cookie exchange or gift exchange as their something, devote one morning of one day off to dealing with it. Then forget about it. By this, I mean make your refrigerator roll cookies, dig out that pair of musical socks you’ve been meaning to make into a white elephant and wrap ’em, do whatever it takes. You can accomplish a lot between nine and noon, and then have a nice boozy lunch.

3. Decorating is overrated. Seriously. Remember that nothing has to be perfect like a magazine, so you can foist off the majority of the interior work to the kids (if you have them) or just stick up a couple of branches of evergreen (if you don’t). Live trees are great and all, but they require watering—so wait until late in the season to buy one. There’s less chance it’ll die if you have to work overtime.

4. If your family stresses you out—and whose doesn’t?—remember that “I have to work that night, sorry” is always a valid excuse. People understand, generally, that sick folks exist even during the holidays. If you want to give Grandma’s brisket (and Uncle Hal’s political orations and Aunt Jeannie’s “festive” holiday songs) a miss, you can claim work. It’ll imbue you with a noble glow, and you can stay home and eat popcorn and watch back episodes of Scandal instead.

5. Finally, a word for those of you who work in potluck-crazy facilities: DELIVERY. Float the idea of having a local deli or Chinese place bring in food, rather than having the traditional casserole-orama. You’d be surprised at how relieved your fellow nurses will be at the idea of not having to cook another damn hot dish.

Happy holidays!

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Agatha Lellis

Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at askauntieaggie@gmail.com.
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