There have been many devastating events happening lately, one right after another. Lives and homes have been lost, and it feels as though the tidal wave of tragedies is relentless. It’s emotionally exhausting, and it’s hard not to get weighed down with fear and sadness every time I read the news.
Yet this is also a time of year when many people celebrate holidays that represent hope, peace, and new beginnings. It can be hard to feel the true meaning of these holidays when we’re feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed. But Taking Care of Yourself is one of the five principles of positive parenting that is so important – now more than ever.
This article is created by Nicole Young, the mother of two children, ages 14 and 17, who also manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is available locally through the Child Parent Institute. Our classes are listed at calparents.org/classes.
Dear Child Parent Institute,
I work full-time and try to stay involved in my kids’ schools and other activities as much as possible. I’m constantly on the move and doing things for other people at home and in my community. I love it – until I end up throwing an “adult tantrum” because I’ve taken on too much and get overwhelmed with stress. We have several relatives who will be visiting us over the next few weeks, and I’m already feeling resentful about the amount of time and attention they’re demanding from me. What tips can you give me so that my stress doesn’t ruin the holidays for everyone else?
You’re not alone! This is a common issue in many families, and the holidays have a way of magnifying emotions so that even small things become a huge deal. Here are a few tips to try:
Notice the early signs of tension and stress in your body, before the “adult tantrum” occurs. Common signs can include: Tense or stiff muscles, headaches, irritability or anger, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelmed or unable to keep up, and an upset stomach.
Use relaxation strategies. When you’re feeling tense or stressed, try to relax your mind and body by breathing in slowly through your nose. When you’ve taken a full breath, pause for a moment, then breathe out slowly through your nose or mouth. Repeat these slow, deep breaths a few times.
Or close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine a place that makes you feel peaceful and relaxed. It could be a forest, a meadow, the beach, a foreign country, or a dark room with no one around you. Use your imagination to see every color and hear every sound. Take deep breaths as you envision this peaceful place and imagine your stress leaving your body each time you exhale.
Use coping statements. In stressful situations, you might find yourself automatically thinking negative things about yourself, other people, or the situation that’s happening, which can add to your stress. Try telling yourself some coping statements or affirmations, such as: “I can do this. I’ve done it before. Just breathe deeply and relax. This situation won’t last forever.” Replacing unhelpful thoughts with positive ones can help keep your stress level from escalating.
Ask family members for their help. Have a discussion before the holidays about what celebrations your family will participate in, expectations (or limits) about gifts, how to share household or holiday-related tasks, and how to share parenting duties with your partner or co-parent. Developing those agreements ahead of time can prevent minor issues from turning into major conflicts. Talk with your children about how they can be helpful during the holidays. Prepare them for possible changes in their daily routines, especially if you have guests staying with you. Let your children know which family rules can be flexible during the holidays, and which ones they’ll need to follow as usual.
Give yourself permission to say no. This can seem impossible for people who are natural-born helpers and thrive when they’re busy. Yet it’s vitally important to take care of yourself so that you have the physical and emotional energy to keep going. Let go of any guilt or fear of missing out when you say no, and notice how it feels to have fewer demands on your time.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Holidays are both joyful and stressful for all types of families. Take steps to minimize stress and give yourself peace of mind so that you and your family can create memories filled with love, joy, and laughter.
Child Parent Institute