The holiday season can be a fun and magical time, but the burden mothers sometimes bear during this season can sometimes bring more stress than joy. If you’re recovering or recently recovered from postpartum depression or anxiety, the stress of the holidays can sometimes require a little extra self-care. Here are some tips for managing your
1 – Plan Coping Strategies in Advance
Even if you’ve already made a lot of progress getting beyond your postpartum struggles, it’s not uncommon to find that the holidays often trigger old symptoms and habits. Watch for symptoms of anxiety or a depressive mood, and be prepared to pick up some of your effective self-care techniques that have been effective in the past.
It can sometimes help to keep a list of what has worked in similar situations in the past. Write a list with 5-7 ideas for coping strategies and keep it in your pocket or purse. When you find yourself slipping into anxiety or depressive thoughts, pull out the list and re-read it to help you plan your next step.
2 – Plan the Event but Not the Outcome
One of the most important tips we can offer during the holidays is to plan the event but not the outcome. It can be fun to put our heart and soul into planning an event, but it’s important to remember that while you can plan an event, you have no control over the outcome. Stay present and remember that plans change, things go wrong, and sometimes things can go even better than expected. Stay present and flexible, and let go of your expectations. Take what comes in the moment without judgment, and you’ll likely find more to enjoy than you expected.
3 – Don’t Expect People to Read your Mind
It’s easier to hope friends, family, or loved ones will notice when we need help or know exactly what to do to make the holidays special for us, but the truth is that while they will try their best, nobody is a mind reader. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by wishing that loved ones could know exactly what you need or want at any given moment. Find your assertiveness and communicate your wants and your needs! Try picking one or two things that would make your holiday extra special and ask for it instead of hoping someone will guess.
If you need help planning or preparing for an event, ask for it. As much as your loved ones may care about you, they won’t know exactly what you need and how to help unless you communicate it to them.
4 – Stop and Think About the Cause of the Pressure
It’s common to feel pressure during the holidays to make sure everything goes “just so.” Do you have expectations for how your home should look? What types of foods you need to prepare? The types of things you should be doing for others (like hand-making teacher gifts or wrapping paper)?
We can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the expectations that often come from the holidays, but sometimes this pressure isn’t nearly as heavy as it feels. Take a moment to stop and consider where the pressure is actually coming from—you may be surprised to find it’s actually coming from yourself.
People around us are usually much more forgiving than we tend to believe and don’t have the same high, magnificent expectations that we sometimes have for ourselves. If you’re worried about the expectations your partner or extended family may have for the holidays, have a conversation with them about it! You may be surprised to find their expectations from you are much lower than the expectations you place on yourself.
5 – Take Some Time for Yourself
While spending time with family is important and magical during the holidays, don’t forget that you need (and deserve) time to recuperate and celebrate yourself! Pick up a new book and sit in a coffee shop, take yourself to lunch and a matinee, or draw a bath with some bath fizzes or essential oils and your favorite music. Make sure you set aside time to rest and recharge so you can feel fresh and happy for your next holiday activities.
6 – Set Limits
You are a fantastic and capable person, but that doesn’t mean that you have to overwhelm yourself with holiday expectations and responsibilities. Set realistic limits for what is reasonable and enjoyable during the holiday season. You don’t have to do it all! Ask yourself if you truly have the time to attend the neighborhood cookie exchange, carol with your church group, and plan your family’s annual Christmas Eve party. Then ask yourself if it’s truly something that you want to do or would like to prioritize.
Remember that many of your expectations may be self-imposed. If it’s not something you can–or want to–manage, then don’t be afraid to say no. If it’s something you can–and want to–pull off, then don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Think carefully about what is truly essential and take care not to overdo it.
7 – Don’t be Afraid to Let Darkness In
The holidays can stir up feelings of grief and loss, and that’s okay. Remember that it’s normal and okay for you to have less-than-perfect thoughts. It’s okay to mourn, it’s okay to be sad, and it’s okay to grieve past lives and losses. Acknowledge the emotions, and let yourself journey through them instead of pushing them away. Remember your self-care practices and coping strategies that can help you work through what you’re feeling. Share with friends or your partner, write in your journal, and take a moment of self-care to let your feelings exist next to your joy.