Stress throughout the holidays is a thing, not a figment of your imagination. It’s a real thing that can drag you down, make you grumpy and cause you to wish you’d never signed up for this whole “mom” thing.
The Mayo Clinic has even written articles about it, saying that holiday stress can cause depression and anxiety and can lead to overeating and alcohol abuse. (Let’s face it, we could all use a glass of wine right now, right!)
So, how can we prevent the inevitable lows? What’s the best path to minimizing the stress and ensuring that you can stay healthy and happy through to the new year?
1. Get Out!
Seriously, get outside. Light is important on these days with longer nights, and being outdoors can put everything in perspective, increase blood flow, and give us a chance to breathe deeply to lower our blood pressure…. even just a few minutes can make a difference.
2. Lower Your Expectations.
You won’t catch me saying this very often, but this time of year is the RIGHT time to lower your expectations - both of yourself, your partner, your kids, and the rest of your family and friends. Mayo Clinic reports that high expectations contribute significantly to the sense of anxiety. Not every Christmas can be the best one ever, and not every gift will be a home run.
Better yet, lower your family’s expectations while you’re lowering your expectations. Tell the kids that you’re focusing more on great experiences and putting less under the tree and more thought into doing things together. A great set of building blocks that you can enjoy for hours is a rock-star gift - way better than the Giga Ball or Hover Board.
3. Stick to your Budget (and set a realistic one to begin with)
Money is one of the greatest sources of stress. While you might be tempted to get the biggest one or to get three instead of two - don’t do it. It might feel good to spend the money in the moment, but then you are wigged out about it until March. Spare yourself the struggle.
4. Phone a Friend
You don’t have to go it alone… fiind someone to shop with you (heck, cocktail shopping could be a great tradition!). Organize a Wine and Cookie Swap (forget the cookies if you like). Get a gift wrapping circle together some afternoon or start it after the kids go to bed.
5. Start a new Tradition.
Is there something you and your family likes to do that you could turn into a holiday tradition? Classic train set building with cookies and milk? Decorate your own paper-bag stockings? Kids-in-Charge Day, where the kids get to make all the decisions (you still have veto power, but give yourself a break - let them do the planning for a change!
6. Break Something. Not Kidding.
You’re gearing up for New Year’s Resolutions, right? Go to the Goodwill and buy a few glasses or plates - enough for everyone in the family to have one. Then find someplace where it’s safe to smash the dishes, and everyone can take a turn smashing a glass to represent a bad habit they want to break. You’ll be surprised at how satisfying it is to break stuff. (Hint: wear protective glasses, and make sure everyone is being safe with full shoes, etc. - oh, and do the right thing and clean up after yourself!)
7. Cut Yourself Some Slack. Seriously.
You’re probably trying to do it all. Shop. Cook. Decorate. Entertain. Make it special for the kids. Keep your SO happy. Let it go, Elsa, just let it go. Minimize the pressure by remembering a few tips that will help you be productive:
- Make lists (and cross stuff off that you really don’t have to do)
- Group your tasks together (things that are similar, like baking cookies and baking bread; or grocery shopping and gift shopping), to save time
- Listen to podcasts or music to help you stay focused when you’re completing tasks that are hard to focus on (like laundry, housecleaning, etc.), we lose a lot of time to the silly distraction
- Turn off or limit your access to social media and video games - a great tip - give yourself a specific time of day when you can play/check for example: from 9-9:30am and 3:00 to 3:30 pm. That way, you are still in touch, but you’re not losing momentum to the constant interruptions of social media and Candy Crush.
- Eliminate unnecessary tasks - hire someone, or just plain don’t do it. You don’t have to do it all. Really. I swear!
This one is big in our family. We get up when we feel like it. Stay in our pajamas all day, and the most stress we endure is choosing the next movie or TV show to watch, or the next board game to play. I’m not talking about the day after Christmas - I’m talking about December 10th, and again on the 20th. Kids will love it, and you will, too!
9. Bubble Baths.
Take care of yourself. Listen to your feelings and don’t be shy about taking time to nurture yourself. That Mani-Pedi on your list - that’s important. Get in the bathtub and sit in the quiet for a while. Mediate, even if for just 5 minutes. If you’re a hot mess - ain’t nobody gonna have a great holiday - so it’s in the whole family’s best interest for you to be happy!
Perhaps most importantly of all, if you’re really feeling out of sorts, don’t be shy about asking for help. You are not alone - the holidays, and Winter, with longer darkness can bring on Seasonal Affective Disorder - get a lot of people down. Don’t be shy about calling a friend, your Mom, or even a doctor. We all need a little help sometimes.
If all else fails, try playing with some of your kids toys - here are a couple of our favorite stress busting toys!