When you think about the holiday season you might initially be reminded of the food, the laughter, the gifts, the travel, the music, and the love most people experience during this time. You might get filled with excitement thinking about all that is to come in the next month and what a magical time it can be for you and your family.
You may also experience sadness, grief, resentment, anxiety, fear, frustration, and feel overwhelmed thinking about the smallest detail. That is the dichotomy of motherhood. Two things can be true. Now, how do you manage that?
Three Tools for Protecting Your Mental Health:
There is an idea that if you are not okay, then no one else in your family is okay and that seems to be true 9/10 times. There are reasons that so many organizations invest in moms' mental health and that is because the benefit to everyone else is invaluable. When you take care of yourself, protect your peace and your mental health, everyone else reaps those benefits and creates a positive and safe environment for everyone to thrive in. It’s one thing to have that information, and another thing to understand the HOW behind it so here are a few things you can start doing before you find yourself in the middle of the holiday stress:
Whether with your partner, family members, or other supports. You need to advocate for yourself and discuss your support needs, what you can and cannot manage, and the situations or people in your life that elicit stress, anxiety, or any other feelings you do not want to experience during the holiday season. Effective communication can be challenging, and it is something you will need to consciously choose to improve with everyone in your life. You are responsible for advocating on behalf of your child and yourself, and at times this can feel overwhelming. Two tips to help you get started:
- Write the other person a letter, explaining your feelings and emotions about what you are experiencing. It can lessen the fear of having a face to face conversation and allow them time to process what you are telling them, resulting in a response vs a reaction.
- Schedule a “check-in” or a “Sunday sit down” where you come together with your partner or others in your life and check in about the past week and what went well, what needs attention, and what needs to change. Having a scheduled time to have these conversations can reduce emotional outbursts when you begin to feel overwhelmed in the moment.
Make a Plan
The holidays come with pressure for moms to show up at every event they were invited to, or to host people in their homes. Planning ahead regarding how you will respond and who (if anyone) you are willing to invite into your home will help you protect your peace. When you are invited somewhere on the spot responding with, “Thank you. We will circle back later and let you know if that works” gives you an opportunity to decide away from the situation if it is something you really want to do.
Establish a Keyword
You might find yourself in situations that are creating anxiety or around people that are questioning your parenting skills and you will want to leave, but will be afraid of how that is received. Having a keyword that is shared with your partner or other supports will be helpful in shifting the responsibility. People will judge you, the mother, for being tired, or “not fun”, and wanting to leave. If the suggestion comes from your partner or friend, the attention shifts from you to them, and they might be in a better place mentally to fend off the comments.
What Nobody Else Can See
Everything changes once you have children, and the most difficult of seasons for new moms are typically the holidays. You are faced with new challenges, a new life, new responsibilities, and new feelings about everyone and everything, on top of all of the things you are thinking about that nobody can see. The mental load of motherhood is one of the most exhausting aspects of becoming a mom, and when you are in the postpartum period, your hormones are still regulating which can often feel like you don’t have a grasp on much while carrying it all. Here is a graphic to highlight some of the things you might experience over the holidays and you are encouraged to share this with your partner and/or family to help explain your experience:
How to Prioritize Your Joy During the Holidays
After becoming a mom you will find yourself on the backburner of your own life, and that is quite natural, especially during the early years of your child/children's lives. You may have anticipated this happening as it relates to your social life, sleep, physical exercise, and career. Most of the time it is acknowledged and then the situations begin to change allowing you to regain some control and start doing more for yourself. One area you might not have been prepared to make any sacrifices is that of the holidays and happiness. Somewhere along the line someone decided that to be a good mom you needed to sacrifice your wants and happiness for that of your family, and that is simply not true. As referenced earlier, the dichotomy of motherhood means two things can be true, and this is another area where that is the case.
Your joy and happiness are still paramount as a mother. In fact, even more now because your child/children sense your mood and emotions and reciprocate those feelings. So, if you want your child/children to be happy, feel loved, and find joy during the holiday season then you can be sure that prioritizing your happiness is essential, and here are a few tips for how you can do that:
- Spend time with people who love you and are validating
- Do something different for your physical appearance (nails, hair, lashes, makeup, etc.) You are a mom now, and deserve to show up however you desire
- Set boundaries and stick to them
- If a situation or person does not align with your happiness do not go there, or spend time with them
- Politely decline invitations to go out, or pressures to host until you are ready
- Prioritize rest. You can handle a lot more after a good night's rest
Just like any other season, you will have some good ones and some challenging ones. This current season won’t last forever, and it is ok to make them as tolerable as possible for you.
This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.