The festive season is upon us. Well, actually it was upon us in October already! Supermarkets were putting up lights, playing Boney M’s “Little Drummer Boy” with sudden displays of advent calendars. It’s hard to miss. But now it really is upon us and we need some strategies to reduce the stress this festive season.
Festive Seasons Can Be Un-Festive
As a psychologist I have been struck by how very un-festive this season can be for so many people. It is, in many ways, such a difficult time of year. Family that is missing (through loss or immigration) is so much more apparent. Financial difficulties are more evident. Conflict in families escalate – especially when couples have hidden behind work and time apart to keep their difficulties at bay.
My work with mothers has also highlighted how holidays, and especially the festive season, can be stressful. Many of us take leave from our full time work – But tired and depleted from the year behind us, the thought of having to energetically look after children under age 10 is less than enticing.
Let’s face it- those of us with young kids can only dream of long lazy afternoons reading a book or enjoying a nap. Instead we need to put our Christmas cheer on, muster up the energy and be present with our little ones.
And mom guilt rears its ugly little head here because, well, the festive season is supposed to be festive but we might not be feeling it.
5 Strategies To Reduce The Stress This Festive Season
Now because I am in the business of helping mothers be the best version of themselves through the overwhelm and exhaustion I thought it befitting to discuss some clever little strategies to help you through the Festive Season and reduce the stress…
Not just help you survive it… but to thrive through it. And get some much needed rejuvenation so you are ready to rock into 2021!
Always, always I will lead with this. Because intentional living is really at the heart of making the most of your time and your energy. (Read more about being an intentional mother >>> here <<<)
Before launching into the holiday festive season take a little time out and create a vision for what you want your 2020 festive season to look like. Are you going away for a little vacay? Is it an adventure or for relaxation? Are you staying home and simply connecting over a feast? What memories would you like to make this year?
I have included a festive season planner (scroll down) to get you started- simply download it and get started on the journal prompts to set your intentions.
Thinking this through and creating a clear intention for how you would like to spend this holiday will set you up to create a festive season that works for you and creates lasting memories.
You have a family full of people who, potentially, want different things from this holiday and festive season. You will, undoubtedly, have your own desires for your time off.
As the CEO of the household it often lands on mothers to make sure kids are entertained, occupied and needs are met. But holidays can feel long and arduous if we don’t plan ahead.
It is often useful to have a little planning session ahead of time and include your kids. What are their ideas for the holidays and what they would like to do? Have a brainstorm session and make sure your ideas and needs are in there too. Then create a rough plan on how everyone’s ideas may transpire over the next two to three weeks.
If your kids are much younger then you could do the planning of how and when the ideas get implemented. But they will love having been involved in the ideas, anyway.
Planning ahead gives you a rough schedule to work to which takes the stress out of having to find something to do each day. This doesn’t have to be a strictly adhered to plan – but a rough guide to follow when you need some inspiration. Making sure you have your kids’ ideas and needs on there also helps to reduce the mom-guilt when you assert your needs for some time out and R & R.
Know Thine Triggers
The festive season can be a tricky time for many people. If you find this time of year difficult – now is the time to get clear on what triggers you.
Perhaps you struggle with seasonal affective disorder? Maybe you have lost a loved one and miss them this time of year? Some people are recovering from addictions and the festive season is a particularly difficult time of year to be managing their recovery.
Whatever the reason, knowing what triggers you in advance will allow you to create some cushioning around potentially difficult situations. Call in for support where you need to and be compassionately kind to yourself as much as possible.
Use the festive season planning template to map out these triggers and some potential safeguards to make things easier for you.
It is easy to feel swept away with the spending of money, buying Christmas presents and prepping a festive feast (if that’s how you celebrate). Stress always increases over this time of year for most of us.
The festive season can also feel exceptionally busy. If you are heading on holiday then there is planning and packing to do. If you’re staying home, perhaps you have family visiting. Then there is the pandemic and the direct and indirect effects thereof.
Fact is, friend, you need a break as much as the next person. And often the only way we get that is by knuckling down and getting present.
Being all here in the current moment every now and then helps to reduce the stress of all the things overwhelming you.
Practicing presence when putting up the tree – enjoy this moment with your kids and take a minute to simply enjoy the beauty once it is done.
Practice presence when you bake – really take in the smells and the joy on little people’s faces as they lick the spoon and eat too much of the cookie dough.
Find a moment to cuddle on the couch with your kids and partner – stop for a second and allow that cuddle to fully soak in.
Notice the moments when the kids are getting on with each other and everyone feels content. Notice them and be present to them. The more you see them and feel them, the more enjoyable the entire festive season becomes.
Practice Lenience and Compassion
One thing that is often sorely overlooked is that, despite it being holidays and children feeling excited, there is also a lack of routine.
Routine brings stability and encourages more stable behaviour. Our kids can often feel a little off centre when the routines and usual schedules fly out the window. Later bed times, more stimulation, crowds of people and the impending excitement of Christmas adds the mix. It can be really difficult for them to hold it together and you may find your kids behaviour flying out the window a little.
When you are mentally prepared for this (and can even feel some empathy for this) it makes it so much easier to tolerate and manage.
But the same goes for you, Mama – your routines and schedules have also been thrown about. This can feel exciting and welcoming, but it can also be exhausting. If you’re not feeling it – be kind. A healthy dose of self-compassion is what will get you through this festive season
Catch A Break, Mama
As a pretty difficult year rolls to an end remember to acknowledge yourself and what you mean to your family. Give yourself permission to catch a break, wherever you can find a moment. And if moments are not readily available to you, be sure to create some.