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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

Three ways to stay stress-free on Thanksgiving

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About a week ago, a new mom asked me for some tips on reducing stress on Thanksgiving. She just gave birth to her little girl a few months ago, and this is her family’s first Thanksgiving holiday as a family of three. My son is now in his teens, but I remember, very clearly, my first Thanksgiving as a new mom, and how difficult it was. I remember feeling like I was being pulled in a thousand different directions, while, at the same time, having to cook, care for an infant, maintain my household, and all with a smile on my face. And all of this because I thought this was expected of me!

And I realized that this is a very real challenge that new mothers face in the first year of holidays with their newborn child. Overall, this is something that parents often face, and it can make you dread the holidays rather than look forward to them. So, here is a list of three things that you, as a parent, and especially as a new mom, can do to help you reduce stress and actually enjoy Thanksgiving.

1. - Remember that you can’t please everyone, nor are you responsible for everyone’s happiness.

I think this can be one of the hardest things to remember. For some reason, we have a tendency to believe that we are responsible for the happiness of others, when, in reality, as individuals, we are all responsible for our own emotions. I think this can be especially true for mothers who are caring for their families. As mothers, we tend to think that we have to make sure that everyone in our families is content, and therefore, by extension, when the holidays come around, we have to make sure that everyone is enjoying them. On the contrary, it is important to be aware that, you can do everything you can to be pleasant, engage with others, and introduce your new baby to your family members; however, if Aunt Joan is unhappy about something and is projecting that onto others, there is nothing you can do to change that.

2. - Remember that it’s ok to take time for yourself.

It’s a holiday. It’s a day off from work. It’s a day that you should be enjoying with your new family. Then why do you feel this sense of anxiety? Why are you awake in the morning already going through all of the things you need to do today? While, by nature, holidays tend to be busier, why don’t we take time for ourselves? Why does this tend to be on the back burner? One thing that I have noticed, particularly for mothers - and especially for new mothers - is that sometimes folks simply need permission to take time for themselves. We tend to think that we are supposed to take care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves. But it really is ok to take that extra time to enjoy your cup of coffee this morning before cooking, to enjoy watching the football games on TV before your guests come over, or even simply to sit and enjoy catching up with your family members whom you have not seen since the last holiday season. It is OK to enjoy yourself!

3. - Take the time to be thankful.

Yes, it’s Thanksgiving. It is a day for us to be thankful for our blessings, the many things that we have that we are grateful for. Of course, this is different for everyone. But taking that time to recognize what we truly have in life can help us to put things into perspective. When was the last time you really stopped to think about this? Suddenly, the fact that the turkey is a little overdone may not seem that significant. The bickering at the dinner table may not seem like something that you really need to dwell on. But your family, your loved ones, and those you are surrounded by - and the fact that you are all together on this day - is much more important than all of the other things that made the holiday more stressful in the first place. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are supposed to be about?

Ultimately, remember that, whether you are a new parent, have toddlers, or have older children, the holidays don’t have to be a time of stress. Rather, they can be what they are meant to be - a time of rest and joyful celebration with your family and those that you love.

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