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Though the holidays are a time of excitement and decorations and gift-giving, they can also be a time of incredible stress. This stress can involve financial difficulties, lots of traveling, and trying to please everyone during gatherings. When there’s a little one involved, the anxiety can often skyrocket. How will I afford all the gifts? Will the weather allow me to travel? How will I be able to see everybody? Do I really need to put up a tree if the baby is just going to try to tear it down?
These thoughts ran through my brain over the recent weeks. Last year during the holiday season, my girls were newborns. Traveling was our main stressor, but now things are a little different. They’re on the move, they’re babbling nonstop, and they have unique little personalities. I continue to worry about finances and my ability to buy them gifts – as well as gifts for family and friends. On top of that, I have found it incredibly stressful trying to please everyone – meaning, I am trying to be everywhere at once and see everyone at the same time.
This is impossible when our family is scattered across the state.
I have realized, during moments of chaos, that I need to step back into reality. I do not need to please everyone. I do not need to buy everyone extravagant gifts – including my daughters (who don’t even understand what Christmas is yet). I simply need to do what I am physically and mentally able to do.
NOTE: Being physically and mentally available is important no matter what holiday you celebrate. I personally celebrate Christmas, but this mindset and these "points of attack" can help anyone struggling during the holiday season - whatever that holiday may be.
Ways to Attack Holiday Anxiety
Find a Focus. The holidays are a hectic time. Figuring out what is worth your energy and focus can provide a smoother, less stressful transition into the excitement (or insanity – however you prefer to see it as).
Of course, it isn’t always that easy. Between the planning and traveling and spending, stepping back and pinpointing a focus can be tough. However, there is one focus that should be priority number one: family.
“Kids opening gifts stresses me out,” says Stephanie Newman, mom of two. “The chaos and noise are like an overload. My solution is to find a baby and focus on them.” Once you truly focus on your little ones and the memories they will be making during those crazy times, the chaos seems a little more worth it.
Grin and Bear It. Sometimes, you just have to suck it up – plain and simple. It isn’t always the easiest way to attack that holiday anxiety, but there are many people who turn follow this route because they feel as if they don’t have any other choices. Holidays can bring forth memories of past situations that maybe weren’t always the greatest. When you have your own family to care for, you dearly hope your little ones won’t have to face the struggles or stressors you faced during one of the most “joyous” times of the year.
Alyssa Kurtzworth, mom of one, understands this concept and turns to it almost every year around the holiday season. “I’m polar opposite of my family, so the whole ‘mandatory get-together of the holidays and birthdays’ can be very stressful for me,” she explains. “I tend to grin and bear it and keep reminding myself that it’s only one day.
And only one day it is. Even though the holidays encompass a larger span of time, the actual day is just that – one day. Remembering you truly only have one day you have to put on that smile, get changed, wash your hair, and move forward socially may provide some relief.
Unless your family celebrates the holiday every single day of December. Then grinning and bearing it may not be your best plan of attack.
Do the Holidays Your There are not guidelines for how the holidays should specifically be. If you do not want to have a big gathering because your baby is too young, or the chaos is too overwhelming – you don’t have to. If you don’t want to make a huge, fancy meal – you don’t have to. If you don’t have the finances to afford several gifts for every friend and family member – you don’t have to.
It is your holiday – you can do it your way.
Some people focus too much on pleasing everyone else that they forget to please themselves. Making sure your mental state is healthy is critical during this time of the year. You are a parent and that job comes first. Being a mom comes before cooking those cookies or wrapping those gifts. Being a mom comes before decorating the outside of your house or sending out Christmas cards. If you want to celebrate the holidays by creating new, beautiful memories with your family, that should be what you do.
In all honesty, isn’t that what the holidays are all about – creating new memories?
Give Yourself Time to Decompress. Amid decorating and wrapping gifts and sending out cards and baking, many moms forget to care for themselves. I can’t say enough how making your mental state should be a mama’s top priority. When you’re thinking clearly and in a positive place, everything else unfolds a little bit smoother. It doesn’t always mean everything moves forward perfectly, but if you give yourself time to step back, breathe, and restart, you can look at the big picture with more clarity.
Also, using your need to pump or breastfeed can also be a good way to quickly escape the holiday madness during a gathering. Mom of one, Mallory Widrick, understands this concept perfectly.
“Just being around so many people in a tiny living room stresses me out and gives me immense anxiety,” she admits. “This year, my saving grace is breastfeeding. Did I leave the room to breastfeed the baby or did I leave the room to decompress for a quiet moment? The world may never know.”
Make it Fun. It’s the holiday season – try to shake off those stressors and enjoy those around you. If anything, make it fun for your little ones. Even if the holidays are tough for you because of finances and family situations, do your best to make the experience memorable for your children. Decorate with them and listen to music. Bake cookies and do themed crafts. Start up some holiday traditions by reading certain books and watching certain movies.
By finding ways to make the overall atmosphere enjoyable for your family, you too may get lost in the moment and forget about the anxiety that had been weighing you down. It can be hard shaking off those lingering, low feelings. Pushing through them and making the best of this time of the year will always be worth it – for you and your children.
Jennifer Aline is a coffee addict, mama of twins, and a passionate freelance writer and author. She writes for Moms.com on a regular basis and has had articles in publications such as the NY Daily News, NY Post, and In Good Health Newspaper. Aline received her Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Family Studies from Keuka College and worked in the Human Services field before her two little girls entered her life. Aline now focuses primarily on writing, teaching aerial arts classes in the evenings, and caring for her twin daughters – all while continuously chugging coffee, of course.
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