I’m going through a stressful time right now. The stressor is outside of my control; there’s nothing I can do except look to a higher power, try to shelter my kids from it, and ride it out. I’m trying to be mindful of the extra stress and ways to take care of myself. The 10 ideas on this list are mostly low in cost, calories, and negative consequences to help other moms manage the stress of the holidays. Please leave comments to add your ideas, too.
1. Go for a walk. The days are shorter at this time of year, but soaking in some daylight improves your mood, and exercise can help you sleep better at night. I like to find someplace beautiful to walk, like the San Antonio Botanical Garden or the Japanese Tea Garden. (Psst…especially when walking, make sure your bras are working for you. If not, see the Bra Chick.) Too dark to go outside? Put on a headlamp.
2. Plant a pot of flowers. Even if you have limited space or think you have a brown thumb, you will get some mileage out of planting something. All you need is a basic pot, a bag of potting mix, and some colorful, cool-season flowering plants, like snapdragons, pansies, violets, cyclamen, or poinsettias. Just add sunshine, air, water, and love. My kids and I water the plants together a couple of times a week, and it gets us outside for some fresh air in the evenings.
3. Re-read an old favorite book. Consider a children’s book or young adult book that you can share with your kids. Tell your friends what you’re reading; they might want to read it, too, and then get together to talk about it. Lately, I’ve been re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis; my son and his classmates will be reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe soon in school.
4. Reach out to an old friend—the kind who won’t be mad that you haven’t talked in more than six months. Meet up for coffee or lunch—someplace face-to-face—because texting and social media are not quite the same.
5. Learn a new skill. No excuses! There are lots of things you can learn with minimal equipment and space: juggling, knot tying, origami, etc. My kids are fascinated with origami water balloons.
6. Get yourself a really good cup of coffee or hot beverage. I’m not a coffee person, but Local Coffee makes great hot chocolate and green tea. I like coffee shops’ vibe: the lively conversations, the tapping away at keyboards, and bumping into friends and catching up on news.
7. Get your car detailed. It’s such a feeling of accomplishment for minimal effort. Your personal chocolate thunder deserves some love, right?
8. Take a trip down memory lane. Think about your favorite movies when you were growing up, and then plan a movie night to share them with your kids. Pop some popcorn and put your feet up on the ottoman. Inspired by the science fiction novel Armada by Ernest Cline, I recently went to the library and borrowed a bunch of DVDs of movies featuring video game-playing kids who save the earth from aliens. (Yes, it’s a whole genre.) The Last Starfighter is now one of my kids’ favorite movies, too.
9. Volunteer. Even if you’re busy, giving back feels good. Maybe there’s a holiday party or teacher appreciation event at your kids’ school. If the queen bees turn you away and say they don’t need your help, then bust out my PTA post and tell them they’re doing it wrong.
10. Let there be light. I mentioned the shorter days earlier in this post, but the longer nights allow you to enjoy all the beautiful holiday light displays—see Lindsay’s holiday lights guide for inspiration. At home, you can build a fire in your fireplace or fire pit, light some candles (beeswax, soy, or flameless), and play with glowsticks. We downloaded a moon phase app and go outside, as a family, to appreciate the moon’s beauty. A typical weather app will tell you the times for sunrise and sunset, so you can go outside and enjoy these wonders of nature.
These small things bring joy to my life, even during stressful times. However, sometimes things get serious, and we need to ask for help. Depression is real—I’ve been there. If you think you might need help, ask for it. Tell a friend or your doctor. Find a therapist. Contact the Crisis Care Center at (210) 223-7233 or (800) 316-9241. People love you and need you. For their sake, as well as your own, please take care of yourself.
I’m hanging in there; this too shall pass. These everyday joys help remind me of the possibilities of life. I hope these ideas help you, too, during the hectic holiday season. Please share your own holiday stress relievers by leaving a comment below.