It’s hard to keep the holidays sane. For many parents, the holidays mean high stress instead of joy and excitement. It can seem like a marathon – continually running, trying to keep up with the pace and hoping to maintain your sanity by the end of the race.
One of my readers wrote something you may relate with: “When I look back on my Christmas memories, they were loaded with stress. My mother put so much effort into getting everything perfect. All I remember was my mother barking orders at everyone, just to make things perfect. It was dreadful. How can I not repeat the same cycle in my home?”
If you want to keep the holidays sane, it boils down to one essential skill: The degree to which you manage anxiety and reactivity. Your sanity is dependent on how well you stay calm when things don’t go your way so you can respond to your children in warm and loving ways instead of reacting or blowing up.
It’s no secret that the way you handle yourself impacts the environment around you. As a parent, your children are always watching you and discovering which activities work in situations. If you are anxious, upset or frazzled, your children will be immersed in those emotions. They will view them “normal” unless they see alternatives.
Keeping the holidays sane means, we need to pay attention to our behaviors. To explain this a bit further, think of your children as the fish, and you are like the PH level in the water in which they swim. If your PH balance is off, the fish will become dull, struggle, and just “get by” in that environment. However, if the PH level in the water is just right, the fish will become bright, healthy, and thrive in that context. Your job is to provide the most ideal environment for your kiddos to grow so they will succeed. Think of it. Children depend on us to help regulate their environment so they can adjust their moods better. If you’re stressed and out of balance, your children will be too.
If trying to maintain your sanity during the holidays stresses you out, you need not worry. Your children don’t need a perfect parent or an ideal holiday. They just need YOU. They need your warmth, and they especially need your presence. They need you in a good mood, living the spirit of the season and spreading love and good cheer. The big question is “How?” How do you stay cool, calm, and connected during holiday stress? Below are eight simple tips to help you keep the holidays sane.
Lose the perfectionism
You aren’t Martha Stewart or Rachael Ray. If you’re aspiring to be these people, remember this. Behind the scenes, Martha and Rachael have teams of people helping them. They aren’t a one-woman balancing act, despite how it might appear. And neither are you. So just do the best you can this holiday season. Go ahead and accept the messy kitchen, the wrapping paper strewn on the ground, and the Crock Pot meal that takes the place of a five-course dinner. If sick, cranky kids keep you from checking the things off your list, go with the flow. At the end of the day, remember… you live in a “beautiful mess” where no one’s got it all together.
Major in the major stuff
One of my mentors once said, “Steve, let the big thing be the big thing. Tell all that other stuff get in line.” Translation? With your holiday to-do list piling up, now is NOT the time to remodel your kitchen or re-do the back deck. Keep life simple. Manage your schedule, and complete only the essentials. Oh… and don’t forget to just say no to whatever doesn’t bring you joy.
Don’t sweat the small stuff (or the BIG stuff too)
Life happens, as we all know. You’ll hit bad traffic on the way home from work. The parking lot at the mall will be jam-packed. Your kiddo will come down with a cold. The meatloaf will burn in the oven. Not sweating the small stuff means keeping your sense of humor and finding ways to laugh at the little things that WILL inevitably go wrong.
Keep your batteries charged
As the old saying goes, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. The same is true for dads! You can’t be resourceful for your children if you’re running on fumes. However, you can stay resourceful by getting enough rest and sleep. This may sound too simple—even boring—but sleep deprivation cuts off oxygen to the brain, resulting in crankiness and poor decision making. Let me repeat it. If you’re feeling run down by holiday stress, try getting some extra ZZ’s. You’ll be amazed at the difference in the morning when you have full access to your brain and your body’s resources!
Focus on family connection
Simply stated, the holidays are all about family and loving the people we call most important in our lives. Sometimes in the midst of the shopping, decorating and cooking, we tend to forget that. So, this holiday season, stop and play with the kiddos. Slow down long enough to grab a hot chocolate together. Connecting this way will help you relax, be more patient and flexible.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else
Comparison is the thief of joy. (let me say that again) Comparison is the thief of joy. So focus on being the best YOU possible. Don’t worry if the next-door neighbors have better decorations in their house, or if someone outdoes your holiday dessert. The best gift you can give your family is a relaxed and engaging YOU.
Count your blessings
The holidays are a time to reflect on all the good things our maker has given us in our everyday life. If you’re struggling to keep the holidays sane, try looking around you. Thank your maker for the food on your table, the clothes on your back, and the roof over your head.
Keep things in perspective
Contrary to what Instagram might tell you, the holidays are not all about who got the best gift, whose family photo turned out the best or who is taking the posh vacation. Most important, the holidays are all about the transformative power of faith, love, and life together.
The next time you find yourself filled with holiday stress, reflect on these eight simple steps. Remember, if you want to keep the holidays sane, it boils down to how you manage your anxiety and reactivity. Breathe and stay relaxed, so you can be warm and be caring for the people you call essential in your life!
Author: Steve Cuffari For many, Steve Cuffari is the mentor that parents call on to make their parenting style warmer, easier and more affective. He is the founder of inTouch Parenting, a company devoted to helping today's parents calm the chaos, raise emotionally intelligent kids, and nurture families that thrive. read more about Steve Cuffari here...