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Holiday Coping Strategies for Stressed Out Parents by Jennifer Scott

Getting ready for the holidays can be overwhelming for people who lead busy lives, manage careers and have children to raise. Between all the shopping and planning family get-togethers, there’s a house to decorate and a Christmas tree to trim. Men and women who are normally unflappable find themselves stressed out and unable to simply enjoy the company of friends and family. For people who have anxiety issues, it can be a time of dread and raw nerves. For some, holiday stress leads to family discord and even physical violence; the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence reports that domestic violence peaks during Christmas and New Year’s Day.

It’s enough to make one wonder if it’s all really worthwhile. The good news is that a stress-busting coping strategy can help you avoid a lot of unnecessary strife and make this holiday season one to remember.

Manage expectations

Anxiety is often a product of anticipation. It’s easy to set expectations too high as you anticipate the holidays, particularly Christmas, which people see through the prism of nostalgic childhood wonder and memories of an idyllic past. One good way to ease into the holidays is to set realistic expectations. Talk to your kids about the true meaning of the holidays and explain that expensive gifts, while fun, are just part of a holiday that has much deeper meaning. It’s also an excellent opportunity to explain why it’s important to be responsible with money.

If you’re always on the go during the holidays, don’t try to cram too much activity into a couple of precious weeks that are meant to be cherished. You might be surprised at how much fun you can have if you keep things in perspective and just let the holidays unfold.

Spread the work

Someone has to lay the groundwork for all of that fun and partying … meaning someone has to do the cleaning and errand-running. The “grunt work” typically falls to Mom during the holidays, but she also bears the burden of cooking a fantastic dinner and picking up everybody’s favorite holiday goodies. No wonder she heaves a big sigh of relief when it’s all over. This holiday season, give Mom a break by dividing the tasks evenly among the whole family. You could also set up a “job jar” with tasks written down on slips of paper that family members take turns pulling out.

If your family members just won’t pull their own weight, think about hiring outside help. The expense is well worth the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your home will be clean or dinner will be catered. A cleaning service can free you to focus on holiday shopping, spending time with the kids and activities that are more enjoyable than waxing the floorboards or scrubbing the toilet bowls. According to HomeAdvisor, the average maid service can clean a home’s interior in 5 hours at an average cost of $118 to $226.

Plan ahead

Preparing for the holidays is a fluid process. Gift wishes change over time, as do menu items and guest lists. But there are some steps you can take to get ahead of the holiday curve. Go ahead and buy the Christmas gifts you know the kids want and hide them away; you can always return them if they don’t get the response you expected. Last-second gift wrapping can be pretty stressful, so get the whole family involved wrapping gifts for friends and extended family members ahead of time.

The miracle of food preservation means you can do a lot of holiday cooking well before the holidays are upon you. For example, double up on your cookie recipe and freeze the leftover dough in a plastic bag. When it’s party time, just pull it out and pop an extra batch of everyone’s favorite cookies into the oven.

While wonderful, the holidays certainly put at least a little stress on everyone. Try not to let anxiety get the best of you by setting realistic expectations, planning ahead and delegating tasks whenever possible, and you and your family will all enjoy the season this and every year.

Jennifer Scott

With SpiritFinder, Jennifer Scott offers a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can discuss their experiences. She is an advocate for opening up about mental health.

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