Oh, the holiday season. It’s the most wonderful…ly challenging time of the year for so many of us managing holiday stress. It’s no secret that with the technological development of the last two decades and the aftermath of the pandemic, the holidays have become an extremely tiring race to the finish line. We get caught up in purchasing the perfect presents for loved ones to express our love adequately. We overspend at the grocery store to recreate Pinterest recipes like our self-worth depends on it. We desperately attempt to appear like we have it all together on our social media accounts as we post in our matching pajama sets with our kids. But we don’t have it all figured out because, well, we’re human. We’re humans living in the information age where we know all too much about the world and yet so little about how to take care of ourselves.
Managing holiday stress is difficult, but tools are available to help us navigate this busy time more efficiently—and experience the joy this holiday season is supposed to offer. Our and our children’s mental health is of the utmost importance. This festive season can create increased anxiety and depression, and parents are particularly susceptible as they juggle work responsibilities, family, shopping, and budgeting. Increased stress and decreased regular routines can exacerbate everyone’s mental health issues. Children who struggle with mental health illnesses can be more sensitive to these changes. In this article, we will share helpful tips for parents on navigating mental health during the holidays.
Tips for Parents on Managing Holiday Stress
It’s easy for parents to think that their stress is their stress alone; that their worries about money, family dynamics, sick parents, weight gain, and marriage troubles aren’t impacting their children. But the truth is, It’s easy for parents to think their stress is their stress alone; their worries about money, family dynamics, sick parents, weight gain, and marriage troubles aren’t impacting their children. But the truth is, whether we like it or not, if your kids live in the same home as you, you affect them significantly. This fact doesn’t have to be a scary truth, however. Instead, it can be an invitation to practice awareness, self-care, and mindfulness.
Children need routine and structure. Keeping at least one routine a day will help them deal with all the unexpected activities. For example, keeping a realistic bedtime routine and getting adequate sleep will promote the overall well-being of everyone.
You must take care of yourself. As parents, we’re used to putting everyone else before ourselves: feeding the kids, entertaining the kids, and educating the kids. These are all crucial parts of being a parent; however, your kids miss out if it’s your entire focus. You have the opportunity to show your children how important it is to practice self-care. They are looking to you to learn how to show up for themselves. Are you moving your body? Are you taking time for yourself (even if it’s fifteen minutes in the morning or before bed)? Are you beating yourself up every time you mess up? (1) Prioritize healthy eating and movement to show your children how to care for their bodies. (2) Practice deep breathing exercises (which can be found all over the internet) in stressful moments. (3) Forgive yourself when you mess up because you’re human, not perfect.
Set boundaries (no, really). Set limits if you’re stressed and uneasy about the holidays because you feel you’re supposed to spend time with family members. Either choose not to see those people because your mental health is the priority or see them for a designated amount of time. For example, only stay for an hour when you go to holiday parties. It might sound impossible to do that with certain people, but the decision is yours. No one will protect your mental health for you; you must show up for yourself if you want to find peace. Setting boundaries also includes setting a realistic holiday budget to reduce stress.
Slow down. We live in a fast-paced society, and our way of life gets even faster during the holiday season. Sometimes we join the race without realizing it because we’re just running beside everyone around us. Take a moment to slow down and check in with yourself. Whether it’s pausing for five minutes in the morning while you drink your coffee, journaling before bed, or sitting in the car on your commute to work – ask yourself how you’re feeling. Ask yourself what you have on the calendar for the week and check in with the “why” behind each appointment or event. How is it serving you? If it’s not adding to your greater good, maybe you choose to let it go. Share this exercise with your children to help them reflect and prioritize.
Prioritize play. Remind yourself that this time of year should be fun! If baking the best pie in town doesn’t seem fun, let it go and choose something else. Maybe going to see trains isn’t your kids’ cup of tea – so don’t do it. Ask your children what they want to do. Do they want to see a movie? Have a day inside where you lounge on the couch and order takeout? Remember, you make the rules of your life. If the current ones aren’t serving you, rewrite them.
Children mirror parents’ behaviors. Therefore, if parents are stressed, children often become anxious and worried. Parents need to be mindful of their young ones.
Rest, rest, and then rest some more. I know this one feels impossible to so many parents. But rest is hands down THE most important thing you can do for yourself and model for your children. Resting does not mean you’re lazy, no matter what anyone tries to make you believe. You are a human BEING, not a human DOING. And if you’re going to show up to life as a good version of yourself, you need your rest. Choose to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. Take naps. Take a few extra minutes in the shower or set a bath for yourself. Ask for a spa day when someone asks what you want from Santa. You must choose rest; it won’t choose you. Shopping and chasing the perfect gifts can limit parents’ ability to prepare balanced meals. To stay healthy, plan meals ahead of time to avoid overspending and exhaustion.
Contact Us Today
This time of year can be oh-so stressful for the whole family, but it doesn’t have to be. You can set the intention to practice being mindful of your commitments. If something doesn’t serve you, you can pivot and choose something else, even if no one else is on social media. Be the trendsetter. Be the influencer for self-care and rest. And if you need help, our team at Advanced Behavioral Health is here. From on-site counseling for children to therapy and psychiatry, Advanced Behavioral Health offers many traditional and progressive approaches to mental health.
Despite parents’ efforts to keep stress down, children who struggle with mental health issues may need professional help. Please consult with a local mental health professional should you notice any of the following behaviors:
- Sudden change of behavior
- Isolation and withdrawal from favorite activities or people
- Decreased or increased sleep
- Angry outburst
You can also contact Advanced Behavioral Health, Inc. at 301 345 1022 to schedule an appointment. Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room for any urgent needs. Check out a complete list of our services today.