Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Guest Post: Parenting Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress

During the holidays, we dream of making sentimental, joyful memories, but our realities often don’t measure up.  Juggling work and parenthood is challenging on its own. Once you throw the holidays into the mix, tensions can easily flare and blood pressure rises. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce your stress, enjoy your family, and make those dreams become reality.

Family time

There are many wonderful things you can do with your kids to create some of those warm fuzzy memories you desire without spending a lot of money, time or energy.  Forge and savor special moments with your children.  FamilyEducation offers a wonderful printable list of simple, inexpensive (and often free!) ideas for family fun during the holidays, like making paper snowflakes, watching holiday movies, or donating a toy to a charity. 

Stress reduction

The same things that we look forward to during the holidays can make the season feel chaotic.  As Indy’sChild explains, “The rapid pace of the holiday season can magnify normal everyday stress, and disagreements over how your family should spend its time and money can easily put a damper on the festivities.”  School plays, work parties, entertaining, baking, shopping and other events offer plenty of opportunities to be on the run and face heightened stress.  Follow these tips to reduce your stress and maintain a sense of order:

     Establish a budget.  Overspending is a prime source of stress.  Plan how much you will spend on groceries and gifts, and stick to your budget. 
     Connect.  If you feel isolated or lonely during the holidays, reach out to family and friends.  Get involved with religious or community events, and enjoy some time socializing.  Opportunities abound for volunteering; do something outside of yourself to boost your mood and connect with others.
     Be realistic.  Unrealistic expectations can cause a lot of unnecessary stress during the holidays.  Experts at Mayo Clinic note, “The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year.  As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well.”  Select your favorite traditions or those that fit best with your current situation and enjoy them.  If you can’t be with someone who is normally a part of things, share experiences via social media, email or video chat. 
     Keep healthy habits.  Allow yourself some fun but make good choices during the holiday season.  If you are going to a party, eat a healthy snack beforehand and don’t binge on sweets, alcohol or high-fat foods.  Find some time for exercise every day, and get plenty of sleep. 

Coping skills

If you’re struggling with ways to manage stressful situations, here are some simple recommendations:

     Catch some mood-lifting sunshine
     Take a brisk walk
     Sniff some citrus
     Find ways to laugh
     Shut off your cell phone during special events and gatherings
     Enjoy your favorite music

Recurring stress and depression

Do you feel low at the same time every year?  Getting the “blues” may not be normal or necessary.  If your mood is affected by the seasons, you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder:  "Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression occurring at the exact same time every year, normally in the winter months. It is also known as seasonal depression, and can drastically affect your moods, appetite, sleep patterns, and energy levels. This disorder will take its toll on many parts of your life, including your relationships, social life, work life, school, and your sense of self-worth." 
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is treatable.  If you feel that you or a loved one may be suffering from SAD, it’s important to seek help from a professional therapist or counselor. 

Less stress this season

Parenting during the holidays presents its own set of challenges, but with these great tips your season can be joyful.  Plan simple family fun and savor special moments.  Take steps to reduce your stress, and if seasonal affective disorder challenges you or a loved one, seek help.  Turn your season of stress into a season of joy!

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