holiday_stress

It’s getting to be that time of year; malls explode with ornamentation, lists are made and checked twice, and exclamations of “I want that!!” seem to be even more in vogue than usual. Grandparents and extended family will be visited (or will be visiting). Fun will be had along with headaches, anxiety and stress.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

What about the peace that is supposed to come with this season of hibernation? It isn’t being sold in stores. Kids aren’t asking for it to be wrapped and placed under any trees. We sometimes wish it to other people through holiday cards, but are we trying to find any peace and quiet for ourselves?

So much of the holiday season revolves around preparation. We have to clean up, decorate, send cards, spend money, mash many many potatoes. We have to buy presents for kids, parents, neighbors, friends, long-lost relatives and co-workers, trying our hardest not to forget anyone or anything. It’s making me stressed just thinking about all of these impending to-dos. And of course, with all this responsibility comes the expectation for excessive cheeriness. So being stressed is ok as long as you look like you’re having fun! Where can we find that peace that is advertised once daylight savings time ends?

I am here to let you in on a little secret. You have that peace inside of you all the time. Sound weird and existential? Yes, it kind of does. I teach a positive parenting class that spans 9 weeks of content related to all aspects of parenting. One of these two-hour session is devoted to stress (and anger) management. Together, we enumerate stress relieving activities that parents can use to help them manage feelings of worry, anxiety and strain. While taking a walk, listening to music, doing yoga or quietly reading are really good stress relievers, they’re sometimes hard to find time for.

So what can we do instead? Simply breathe. Our breath goes with us wherever we are. Stopping to concentrate on our breathing when we are feeling overwhelmed can help us calm down almost instantly. All we need is to turn our attention from the tasks we are doing (or are trying to do) to focus on our in-breath and out-breath. You can do it while driving your kids from place to place. You can do it while sitting on the bus. You can do it at your desk. You can do it while you mash those potatoes. You can do it before and after breaking up the 15th quarrel of the day between your kids. In and out.

As we approach this season of giving and receiving, you may feel funny about focusing on yourself when there are so many other people to think about. But as we all know, being the best version of yourself helps you to be more productive, compassionate and patient. Taking some time to calm yourself down will help you spread that calm throughout your environment. And when kids are exposed to calm parents, chances are better that they will learn more quickly how to keep themselves calm. Breathing for kids can be just as effective and important in keeping the peace. If you practice it, you can help them practice it too.

Here’s hoping that you find a little peace and quiet this holiday season.