5 Tips for Managing Holiday Season Stress

1)  CHANGE THE QUESTION. I love this little tool.  When the questions swimming around my mind on any given day send me down the Anxious Mama path, I attempt — and not always successfully — to redirect myself with a new line of questioning that can only produce positive answers.  Instead of, “How the hell am I going to get everything done?” or “Why does everything feel hard right now?” which tend to be spiraling-into-no-where-good type questions, try, “How can I make this fun?” or “What’s perfect about this moment?”

holiday_peace_postage_stamp_navy_blue-p172633630232926505anrsa_4002) RECONSIDER YOUR “HAVE TO” LIST. I’ve had huge resistance to letting go of my “have to’s” in the past.  “But I have to send Holiday cards to everyone!”  “We have to have a tree!”  “We have to send gifts for all of our extended family!”   “We have to go to the tree lighting and the charity event and the cookie exhange and the company party and the school gathering and the concert……”  What if you didn’t have to do anything?  Because truly you don’t!

What could you take off your list this year and feel OK, and possibly even good about?  This year, out of necessity, I’m cutting my Christmas card list down to 40 and using extra cards I’ve saved or been gifted from years past;  we’re buying a cute little $25 Charlie Brown tree that I’m sure our tots will love decorating as much or more than the standard; and we’re limiting gifts to one per child — nieces, nephew and our own.

3) GET SUPPORT.  If you’re currently on an “ain’t got no disposable income” budget like us, finding support can be a little tricky. But not impossible!!  Trades and barters work wonders.  You can trade babysitting with one of your girlfriends with children.  Or…..another strategy for mostly free babysitting, you can offer to make dinner and rent a movie for friend(s) without children. After dinner they can enjoy a movie at your place and man the baby monitor while you get out of the house.

And last but not least, if you do have a bit of money on hand to create some support systems for yourself,  I suggest two things in addition to babysitting.  ONE: an errand-running service.  A magic little elf to manage shopping, wrapping, trips to the post office, help with decorating, deliveries to friends…..you name it, they do it.  Local Austin favorite:  Punchlist.  TWO:  A Slow Family Living class.  This Monday, Carrie and Bernadette are offering a teleclass from 7:15-9:15 Central Time called, “Creating Your Slow Holiday” for $35. Check it out.

4) REMEMBER TO PLAY.  A fairly standard scene in our house is me cooking or 1/2-ass cleaning while holding baby and feeding toddler and checking messages intermittently on the iPhone and attempting a conversation with my husband with 18 interruptions from the toddler.  All we need is a barking dog and some loud traffic noise and we are the 80’s Calgon commercial daily — sans the luxurious bubble bath.

I’m considering the idea of scheduling”100% FUN” time every day where I completely drop the ongoing to-do list and give 100% of my attention to simply playing with my girls. For a toddler, to receive intense, hyper-focused attention for even 10 minutes can do wonders for filling their emotional cup.  And her happiness is truly my happiness too.  Today, we spent 10 minutes dancing outside together, marveling at the tiny snow flakes and trying to catch them on our tongues. Pure, mutual bliss. And so simple! This time of year is meant to be magical and fun so I choose to find ways to make it so every day.

5) MOVE YOUR BODY.  It’s amazing how easy it is to shift a state of mind this way.  I know I stated a goal in an earlier self care post about getting outside and moving my body with walking or running at least 3 times/week.  Um. Yeah.  Haven’t really come close to that.  YET!  I have at least ten solid excuses for why this hasn’t happened.  But truth be told, I need to come to terms with the fact that everything comes down to priorities and choices.  I’ve chosen sleep or work or caring for sick kids.  But I know in my heart of hearts that even the littlest bit of exercise does wonders.  Absolute wonders.  Bring on the endorphin release high!  And remember, a little movement goes a long way. No one can stay stressed out for more than two seconds when they simply stop everything and shake their ass.

Other tricks of your own to share?  Please send them my way!

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