It’s the holiday season! That means joy and parties and happy people all around right? That’s what we want it to be, but unfortunately for a lot of parents it means stress, worry and late nights. In 2020 a lot of parents are feeling the pressure of making the holidays more magical, more special and striving for perfection. Maybe it is your first holiday season as a parent or maybe it is the last one you’ll have before your oldest heads out for college/the ‘real’ world. Whatever your external motivator is this year it probably pales in comparison to the pressure you’re putting on yourself.
The Paradox of Holiday Season
Holidays usually mean family gatherings, dinner parties, gifts and decorations. This time of year also brings challenges in many forms: cold weather, a time change that means it gets darker earlier and a now ever-present illness. Any or all of that can really have a negative impact on mood, so if you’re feeling conflicted about the “joy of the holidays,” know you’re not alone.
SAD is not just an emotion
The National Institute of Mental Health describes Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, as “starting to feel down when the days get shorter in the fall and winter.” SAD is considered a type of depressive disorder and is characterized by some symptoms of major depression. Not everyone who feels “down” has SAD or depression, but I say this to bring attention to the fact that, yes, the weather and the sunlight, or lack of sunlight, can impact your mood. (if you do experience depression/anxiety please reach out for help.) Add to that low mood, this idealized version of a perfect holiday and you have a recipe for disappointment and feeling down. Maybe you didn’t get that highly sought after toy, or missed out on that sale and are feeling the pressure. Maybe this holiday will look different because you can’t travel or are not able to do your usual holiday traditions. The challenge then becomes finding a way to deal with the stress and the sadness.
Ways to cope
There is a lot of info out there about coping, and self-care, and handling stress and this is one more of those lists. Here are some ideas I’ve gathered for dealing with the holiday blues.
- Get outside. Sunlight can be very beneficial. It’s free and it’s an activity you can do safely and socially distanced.
- Make time for you, seriously. I know, I know, everyone says this, but it is so important. We wear a lot of hats as a parent or a partner and we sometimes forget we are a person. So, if you’re very “Type A,” schedule some me time. If you’re more of a go with the flow, flow to an adult time out and put someone else in charge of the kids, the house, dinner.
- Avoid carbs. Carbs are my favorite, I don’t know if I’ve met a carb I didn’t like, but in the winter months we tend to overeat, and we overeat carbs because they’re usually comfort food. I’m not saying quit them completely (I could never do that). I am saying be aware of what you’re eating and make an effort to have some “healthy” options too. Everything in moderation right?
- Exercise. Again, I know, everyone says it, but they all say it because exercise does help. You don’t need to run a marathon. Maybe try out a yoga video or take a walk around the block.
- Don’t shop til you drop. I get it, shopping can be fun and finding a deal is exciting, but consider your budget and don’t do something that will give you buyer’s remorse.
- Ask for help. It may be the hardest thing on this list. We’re supposed to be super-parents right? Well, I’m here to tell you can be a super parent and need help at the same time.
- Reach out. Talk to a friend, a family member, your internet friends, your mom friend: those who “get it” and those who see you and what you need.
There are many more things that could be on this list, but no one knows you better than you. Maybe you’ve just lost touch with you, lost yourself in the family and the stress. Give yourself permission to make you the priority, treat yourself, for a day or even just an hour. I think I’m going to spend my hour with hot chocolate and The Great British Baking Show (no one said we had to give up watching carbs!)