Later this month, many will begin preparing holiday meals, attending social gatherings and shopping for the perfect presents. Millions will also spend it focused on reducing stress instead of spreading cheer.

Employees from Huntsville Center's Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate's Facilities Division are celebrating the "The 12 Days of Christmas" at Huntsville Center as a novel way to beat holiday stress.

The Facilities Division team, also referred as the "1G3 Crew" by some at Huntsville Center, is holding a different holiday activity every day Dec. 9-20 that doesn't require employees to use any of their time or money to participate. There are many activities to choose from: Christmas hat, tie, sweater and sock days and treat and decorating days, to name a few.

John Winkler, division chief for Huntsville Center's Installation Support and Programs Management Branch's Facilities Division, said he can't take credit for the activity -- it's his people.

"Our people make our workplace a great place. For me, the great part of managing this team is how we have a fun work environment," he said. "We're always looking for ways to break stress and lighten the atmosphere. Sometimes they even talk me into participating in some of the activities to relieve stress. I hung a holiday wreath on my door for the first time this year."

LaNita Bonds, a civil engineer and project manager from Huntsville Center's Installation Support and Programs Directorate, and Vicki Ladner, a contracting officer in Huntsville Center's Contracting Directorate, spearheaded "The 12 Days of Christmas" idea, for very different reasons.

Bonds said she wants to provide extra support to her team this year. She has always worked in organizations where she felt like she was part of a family. This didn't change when she came to work at Huntsville Center. Since part of what a family does is helping one another, she wanted to help her Corps' family eliminate stress during the holiday season.

"Huntsville Center is a fun place to work. I enjoy all the team building activities to bring everyone together," Bonds said. "Things like this keep morale up, keeps stress down and increases productivity because people are happy. Work doesn't have to be a place of misery, gloom and doom. People do a good job when there's some element of fun involved. I love my job and I love the easygoing atmosphere here."

Ladner said she needed extra support from her Corps' family this year. Taking part in the holiday festivities allows her to take her mind off things and have some fun. It also gives her excellent opportunity to bond with those on her team.

"I see the purpose of the 12 Days of Christmas as promoting fun and fellowship with my co-workers," Ladner said. "I personally have suffered the great loss of a loved one this year as have some of my co-workers. This activity helps lighten the mood of the holidays when for so many of us it can be a difficult time."

Lt. Col. Paige Heard, Garrison chaplain, agreed.

Heard said though many struggle to manage stress throughout the year, the holidays can magnify underlying issues and emotions. So whether it's meeting end-of-the-year deadlines at work, hosting holiday celebrations, dealing with family conflict, or added financial strain, holidays have the potential to strain our ability to cope.

"Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year; Christmas can also be a very depressing time for many people," Heard said. "For Huntsville Center's Facilities Division Team to be cognizant of that is a very important thing."

According to Heard, coping strategies for stress during the holidays can be powerful weapons in a person's fight for keeping healthy and staving off depression.

"Stressed! Who isn't stressed at this time of the year? What can you do about it?" Heard said. "For many, just remember that the best gift that you can give someone else is a healthy 'you.' Do positive activities to relieve stress, such as, treating yourself to a spa day, or breathing in the fresh cold air on a walk through the woods, or reflecting on a passage of scripture that uplifts you."

Bonds said the Facilities Division wants the activity to grow into something that will benefit their entire organization. She hopes to get everyone at Huntsville Center on board with the 12 Days of Christmas this year.

"Stress at work takes a toll on productivity, and your physical and emotional health," Bonds said. "Offering this activity is a good starting point, and a step in the right direction. You have to do something to help you keep job stress in check. You've got to establish something that's workable.

A stressed-out person-- that's no gift to anybody."