by Brooke Radloff, MA IWLC
The holiday season is a time for magic, connection and family memory making at its best. Yet alongside the joy and excitement, the holiday season is also a uniquely stressful time of year. Emotions, hopes and pressures are high, and the little time we moms have for self-care can be even less than usual.
If we are pregnant, postpartum, or have small children at home, keeping up with the pace and demands of the holiday season while taking good care of ourselves and our little ones can become overwhelming and downright exhausting. Along with the sweetness and excitement in the air, we moms often face the pressure of a packed event schedule, travel, hosting houseguests, financial stress and navigating family dynamics.
Managing and reducing this stress has everything to do with maintaining your health and wellness during the holidays. As in any time of heightened stress, having a clear plan in place and practical tools at your disposal can work wonders to support and maintain your overall well-being. Here are six wellness tips for helping you and your loved ones to thrive this holiday season.
#1 Allow Yourself To Indulge
Yes, you read that right. Personally, I think a little indulgence is good for the soul, especially the pregnant and new mom’s soul. Take pleasure in the sweetness of the season! Enjoy an extra helping of your aunt’s famous gravy and eat the sugar cookies that you loved when you were a kid. Have a piece of your favorite pecan pie. Just don’t eat the whole thing! But be aware that rich foods, sweets and alcohol find a friend in holiday stress, so the trick is learning to cope with holiday pressures without self-medicating with fudge and wine. The goal is to manage your emotions so you can enjoy the sweetness of the holiday without eating and drinking as an impulsive coping reaction. Therefore, I recommend you serve yourself a gigantic helping of stress management and self care along with indulging in your holiday delight.
#2 Don't Skip Meals
It is a well-known fact that skipping meals, especially on the day of a party most often leads to overindulgence. Make sure you eat nourishing meals and snacks throughout the day so you can consciously choose what you want to eat instead of being led by desperate hunger and a blood sugar crash. This is especially important for breastfeeding and pumping moms, so make sure you eat normally and frequently this holiday season (ideally with a good source of protein) so you don’t slip and fall headfirst into the dessert table.
#3 Add an Extra Helping of Self Care
I’m a big proponent of encouraging expecting moms and moms of young children (and everyone for that matter!) to be gentle, kind and easy on themselves. Self-care is always paramount, and even more so during the holiday season. Yeah, yeah, I know you hear it all the time. You know you “need to take care of yourself in order to take good care of others.” But do you do it? Do you take time for yourself? Do you do what you need to do to refill you cup? Now, I am not suggesting that you take a spa day to break up the holiday chaos (ok, yes I am), but I am recommending that you periodically take a few moments to reset and recharge your batteries. Take a night off, go to a movie, get a massage, take some time to breathe and meditate, go for a walk or take a bath. No matter what it is that rejuvenates YOU, you need to sprinkle it throughout your holiday season so you can keep cultivating the holiday spirit and emotional health you need to thrive.
#4 Plan For Your Exercise Routine
As the pace quickens and your calendar fills up, it’s easy to start cutting out the things that keep you healthy and resourced on a normal basis. Exercise not only helps you stay fit and balance out those extra indulgences, just as importantly, it helps you blow off steam, stay more mentally and emotionally balanced and better equipped to cope with stress. Although time is short, you will be better off this year if you keep yourself physically active through the holidays. No matter which form of exercise works for you, I highly recommend that you make a clear plan and write it down. Whether it is walking around the block, taking a hike, practicing yoga or heading to the gym, research has shown that writing down a plan that says exactly when and where you intend to exercise will make it three times more likely that you’ll do it. So make exercise a priority this year and back it up with a clear plan that identifies where, when and how you plan to get moving, as this will keep you moving in the direction of your greatest well-being all the way through the holidays.
#5 Reach Out For Help
When the whole world is in celebration mode around you, yet you are struggling on the inside, it can make a challenging time feel that much more difficult. The fact is that sometimes the holidays don’t bring about feelings of joy and happiness, and instead leave us overwhelmed by sadness, loneliness and anger. If you know you have this tendency, then I recommend you reach out to a friend, family member or therapist who you can open up to and be supported by on a regular basis. Additionally, those suffering from postpartum anxiety or depression are often even more impacted by the stress, challenges and contrast to a joyful holiday spirit. If you are struggling in this way, please hear my words. You are not alone. In fact, 1 in 7 moms and 1 in 10 dads suffer from postpartum depression. Please reach out for help and get the support you need to help you through this challenging time. It will pass, but sometimes we need some extra help getting through it. A resource that I have found to be helpful is Postpartum Support International at www.postpartum.net
#6 Keep It Simple
If you truly enjoy cooking and crafting AND have the time, energy and support to create a magical feast and fest without collapsing on the other side, then by all means, do it. But if the list of holiday to-dos, events, and projects makes your heart race and blood pressure rise, then bringing out your inner Martha Stewart might not be worth it this year. You will have the capacity to do it all another year. Go easy on yourself. Go for “good enough.” This is not the time to be aiming for perfection. In fact, send the perfectionist on a holiday vacation. Let go of what you wish you could do and instead celebrate keeping it simple. Be extra kind to yourself and give yourself a break this year. Simplify, aim for less and be enjoy your perfectly imperfect holiday season.