Posts Tagged ‘stress’

Just Buy the Damn Cookies

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Did you look at your checklist today?

Just Buy the damn cookies

Of course you did. Even though it was completely unnecessary, because you were up until 2 a.m. mentally running through every little thing left to check off. The presents left to wrap, the gifts to put together, the cleaning in preparation for family to visit, the packing to go visit family, the school holiday recitals, picking up the turkey for the big holiday dinner, planning the holiday dinner, calling a sitter to go to this holiday party, buying a gift for that holiday party, and what was that other thing you needed to remember to do?

Oh yeah. Bake cookies for your preschooler’s winter party.

Let’s revisit for a moment what it was like as a child during this time of year. Thanksgiving would come and go, and the weeks (weeks!) until Christmas seemed to crawl by at a snail’s pace. Nothing important was happening at school because the teachers were all burned out and in desperate need of a well-deserved break. Afternoons were spent wasting away because it was too gross outside to do anything fun. But the anticipation! The excitement! About to burst at the seems with joy over what you imagine your mother’s face will look like when she opens the thoughtful-but-not-quite-useful paper-towel-mache thing you made for her at school on Christmas morning. Everything was lights and hot chocolate and carols and fun back then.

As the adult, though, there is so much pressure to squeeze in all of that goodness for our children. And in the era of Pinterest and Instagram, we are now acutely aware of how much better and greater everything could be than we would ever have imagined without an Internet connection. We love our kids so much that our hearts could burst, and we want the absolute best for them.

But the best for them is you, as you are—not on the brink of implosion. And while it sounds more social-media-praiseworthy to make those kale and cranberry cookies (so festive!) from scratch decorated with fondant and tools from your fancy cake cartridges, none of it will come to pass if you end up in the fetal position under the kitchen table from all the stress.

So tell the Internet to shut up. And just buy the damn cookies.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Managing Expectations Around Gifts

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Managing expectations around giftsAh, the holidays are upon us. There are the classic songs, colorful décor, and tasty treats. Let us not forget the coupon cutting, sale searching, and line waiting. We buy a handful of gifts for our kiddos. Hubby and I discuss a budget and gift ideas, which I try to follow through with before Thanksgiving comes so gifts are not on my mind during the holiday season. We live in a smaller home. I say that not to say we don’t have enough space but simply that we do not crave many toys in our home. We live somewhat simply, by choice.

When I was young, I enjoyed people asking me what I wanted for Christmas. I even flat out made a list and sent it to the man in red, without request. Now I anticipate the inevitable question from a variety of spots (grandmas, aunts, and more!) for my young kiddos. I went through phases. First I felt like I shouldn’t be giving ideas, almost telling people, what to get for my children. It felt selfish. Then I was annoyed that some people felt such need to buy, even when I knew they didn’t have a lot to spend. We’ve settled this last year on what we think is a more realistic, respectful way of balancing other people’s wants for our children and what we hope for them as well.

Keep Perspective

You can’t make other people give gifts the way you want. Everyone understands giving and chooses to do so in different ways. Share how you gift if you’d like, but don’t expect people to suddenly change years of their own beliefs around traditions, giving, and the holidays.

Recognize what you can and can’t control

You can control what you say to your children about gifts and giving. If grandma goes overboard for your children, consider encouraging them to share with others by giving some away or storing some toys away to take out throughout the year. If you receive inexpensive, easily breakable toys with a million small pieces because auntie doesn’t share your love for local, wooden toys, play with them until they break and then throw them away without guilt or donate them to begin with, encouraging a child’s giving heart. If you don’t want grandpa’s extravagant gift to upstage your smaller, hard-earned gift, focus on your giving heart and remind your child that money comes to different people in different ways and amounts. Money does not equal love. Recognize time may teach them this lesson once they grow up and reflect back on childhood, understanding it with an adult’s perspective.

Choose a different centerpiece

Don’t let gifts become the center point. If you stress so much about what others are gifting that it keeps you up at night, figure out what is underneath such a strong attachment to gifting for you. For example, if your concern is keeping up with what other families are providing for their families, remember that love is a far more valuable commodity than a bin full of toys. Perhaps you want children to focus on other aspects of the holiday season or the importance of giving, not money. Know that one day of gifts will not overshadow the other 364 days of the year that you guide them in life.

Lynette shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 2 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Managing Holiday Expectations

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Managing Holiday Expectations 1

There was that one Thanksgiving we stayed home, just the two of us. I was 9 months pregnant, so I had a great excuse for not traveling the solid six-hour round-trip drive that year. Several things make that such a warm holiday memory for me. First, it was our last Thanksgiving just the two of us. Second, it was quiet and relaxing and without expectation. Don’t get me wrong. We are those people who are friends with our families. We get along, vacation together, and look forward to seeing each other again in no more than a few weeks. Still, I will not lie about the sweet joy of bucking the system that one holiday.

Great expectations often boil up most clearly (and painfully) at the holidays. There are so many strong feelings, traditions, and schedules to balance. Somehow all those things seem tied to family dynamics growing up twenty years ago. You know, mom always understood younger brother’s unique living style; Dad always defaults to what big sister suggests. The holidays are a great reminder of all the ways we could use a little therapy. The way we’ve found to work through all this muddle is wrapped up in one word: expectations.

Managing Holiday Expectations 2The Negotiables

For us, when we really thought about it, most things turned out to be negotiable. Family and friends who married into the wonderful love of step-families negotiate a little differently than us. As a nuclear family we generally have all days available while some of our siblings have to balance sharing their children on certain days. As a SAHM I don’t have an office holiday party while some family and friends have two to attend. When we are invited to events, we take time to consider how participating will contribute to (and detract from) our holiday season. We don’t expect to have Christmas on a certain numerical day in the month. We also don’t expect to participate in everything to which we receive invitation.

Another example of negotiation involves the age of our children. This is our fourth December with children but our first time having Christmas morning on Christmas morning. We previously opted to celebrate it that Saturday morning of my family’s get-together the week before Christmas. As they get older this expectation may change, but we’ve spent some Christmas days traveling across the country because being with family ranks higher than celebrating Christmas on a particular day of December.

Gift-giving is another point of stress in the holiday season. With some family members we openly discuss this and set a dollar amount we are comfortable spending on each other’s families. We don’t buy for every single family member; one side of the family we always buy for parents while the other side of the family does a single-name-draw exchange that includes the parents. On the chance that we receive gifts unexpectedly from family or friends, we don’t stress about it because giving and receiving gifts are aspects of the holiday season. We see them as an opportunity to accept gifts with grace and without guilt.

The Non-negotiables

Typically we spend part of the holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year’s) with each family, 1,600 miles apart. For ten years we’ve managed to balance this, though every year looks a little different. It means we don’t take family vacations to fancy locales other times of the year, but saving up to see both families during the holidays is typically non-negotiable. This year, this is not part of our expectations because I am too pregnant to travel cross-country. My doctor (and baby) turned this non-negotiable into a negotiable.

As our children grow, spending Christmas morning at home may turn to into a non-negotiable. Not traveling on Christmas day may become more important to remove stress from the season. For others there may be Christmas Eve pajamas, stockings, a church/synagogue service, or going to a particular family member’s home that is important.

I can’t gloss over the way this relaxed approach to the holidays relies on other people to balance their expectations of us. Sometimes family may or may not entirely understand. Some older family members may want to continue the old traditions even after the younger generations give birth to more. Some family may see every invitation as important, more important than balancing with family gatherings. Even the meaning of family and friend may blur as not every “family” is created with the same make-up. In all of these things, if you know what you are willing to negotiate or not then you can only handle the situation with grace and hope others will understand.

Lynette shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 2 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Dealing with Pushy Relatives During the Holidays

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Tips for Minimizing Gift Overload this ChristmasFor some, holidays are a wonderful break from everyday life. The car is loaded up, the kids are excited, and you spend the day/weekend/month with family you haven’t seen nearly as often as you would like. The time leading up to the big day is spent looking anxiously at the calendar, excited for the opportunity to see those you love so dearly.

This article is meant for the rest of us.

You know, those of us who remember last year, when your sister-in-law said something about your parenting. Or when Grandpa ignored you when you said you didn’t want your three-year-old watching Rambo. Or when your great-aunt asked if you were sure you needed that large of a slice of pie. Though you will the days to not pass so quickly, you can see the date approaching, and your palms get sweaty. Your heart races. Your chest tightens, and at the thought of spending time with family makes you feel claustrophobic.

It is difficult to get into the spirit of the holidays when it requires spending time with people who can be damaging to your psyche. The pain can feel intense, particularly with the notion that family members are supposed to be those who nurture and uplift you, and a memory of the acute pain can make you feel powerless.

So this year you are going to reclaim your power, because you deserve to feel safe and feel respected, especially with family members. And here is how:

  • Revisit the painful event. When your sister-in-law made that comment, what did you feel? How did you react? How do you feel about your reaction? Accept your reaction as the best that you could do in that moment with the information and experience you had. Your hurt feelings were and are valid, and you are welcome to grieve for your past self for experiencing something that pained you so.
  • Create an action plan. Should Grandpa ignore your boundaries regarding your children again, what can you do? Have a mental list of alternate activities you could do with your children, such as going on a walk or taking them to another room to read a book. If you feel safe, include saying to Grandpa, “If you are going to spend time with my children, you need to respect the boundaries I have set with them. If you choose to ignore those boundaries, then you are choosing to not spend time with my children.”
  • Rehearse a phrase to have in your back pocket. “That is a really inappropriate thing to say,” is surprisingly useful in many situations. When confronted with a difficult situation, our minds can go blank. Having something that you have repeated to yourself, particularly in replaying what your Great Aunt said last year, can make it easier to stand up for yourself in a situation that left you feeling powerless before. Finding your voice is difficult if you’re used to suppressing it–give yourself allowance for it to feel raw and abrasive at first as you get used to using it.

You deserve to feel safe, and even more so when with family during a holiday. Give yourself plenty of allowance as you explore how to create that safety for yourself and your children, and may this year be better than last.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Taking the Stress Out of Motherhood

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

As a mom, finding enough time to get everything done that needs to get done is difficult. Finding ways to de-stress is even harder. It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of day-to-day living that it’s easy to forget how important it is for our health to keep stress levels down and find some time to unwind. Luckily, lowering the stress of every day life can be easier than you think. Experiment with a few of these and stick with the ones that work best for you.

Taking Some Stress Out of Motherhood

This bag has everything you need to pamper yourself and de-stress.

Be kind to yourself. Instead of trying to be a perfectionist, try letting yourself off the hook for not being perfect. Realize that you’re doing an amazing job raising another human being and that you don’t have to be perfect at everything.

Take some mommy time. Make a conscious effort to unwind at the end of every day. Turn off any technology and do something relaxing. Catch up with your spouse, do a skin mask, paint your nails, read a book or even try coloring or journaling as a great way to unwind.

Be prepared. Stress tends to come at predictable times, whether it’s trying to get out of the house in the morning or when trying to make dinner. Try to find simple ways to take the stress out of those times, lay your clothes out the night before, have meal plans ready, prep food for the week in one day, think of activities to fill time–- whatever it may be, having a plan ahead of time can make difficult times easier.

Laugh often. Laughing helps relieve stress and instantly lifts your mood, even if you’re just laughing at yourself. Watch a funny movie or buy a calendar cube with a daily joke, anything that makes you chuckle will take away a little bit of stress.

Break a sweat. Exercise not only keeps your body healthier but can also keep your mind healthier. Even a few minutes of exercise a day can help you think more clearly and release endorphins to boost your mood. Try going for a quick walk, doing a series of sun salutations, or some more challenging home workouts.

Find support. Taking the time to grow friendships with other women can help reduce stress and help you feel more balanced. Having other moms to share your concerns, triumphs and headaches with can help reduce some of the anxieties that come with being a mother. Try joining a social network with a moms group, or a local moms group and get to know some new people.

Jacqueline Banks is a certified Holistic Health Counselor focused on nutrition and green living strategies. She works with women in all stages of motherhood, from mothers struggling with conception, through pregnancy, lactation and beyond to ensure the best health and nutrition for both mother and baby. Visit her blog and website at JacquelineBanks.com.