Buying gifts. Cooking the big family feast. Entertaining visitors. Too often, the season of joy is a season of stress. What’s a frazzled family to do?

Brittney Schrick, extension family life specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said service to others may be the cure.

“While the obvious goal is to help those around us, acts of service also help us to stay focused on the true spirit of the holiday season,” she said, adding there are numerous studies that show people who give are happier.

Examples of giving include serving in a food bank or pantry, visiting a hospital or nursing home, shopping for an elderly or disabled neighbor, providing gifts for a local angel tree or Toys for Tots.

“Engaging in random acts of kindness are just a few examples of simple ways to serve your community,” Schrick said. “Involving family members, especially children and teens, gives the opportunity for bonding over a positive, uplifting experience and modeling an attitude of service to others.”

Be sure to look for formal opportunities for service ahead of time, especially if seeking a service opportunity on a specific holiday.

“Thanksgiving is one of the biggest volunteer days of the year, so opportunities may be limited if arrangements aren’t made in advance,” she said. “Consider when, where, and how to best serve your community.”

Schrick said there’s a flip side to this, too:

“Accept help if you are the one who needs it,” she said.

“This could be financial, emotional, or other help,” she said. “Sometimes we allow pride or shame to dictate our willingness to accept help from others, but everyone needs help sometimes. If this is your time, accept the offered help and look for ways to pay it forward to someone else who may need it later.”

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