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“Mom is such a special word, the loveliest I’ve ever heard. A toast to you above all the rest, Mom you’re so special - you are simply the best.” - Author unknown
The holidays are here. Are visions of sugar plums dancing in your head? If you’re a new mom with a brand new baby, you may instead feel like you’re dancing a Super Mom List of 3001+ Things to Do. You are not alone!
The pressure to be happy this time of year adds an emotional stress unlike other holidays. Don’t feel glum about not feeling happy at Christmas, if that’s how you really feel. A certain amount of postpartum baby blues are normal. You’re operating on low (or nonexistent) margins of time and energy. Shifting hormones can make you feel like a weepy, angry, irrational alternate-universe-version of yourself.
Go easy on yourself. If you’re feeling more blue than red-and-green as you consult your holiday calendar, try these seven tips to help minimize stress and make your holidays more pleasure than pain.
Know the signs.
You’ve just had a baby, the physical equivalent of running a five-mile marathon. Feeling tired, overwhelmed, emotional, and less-than-festive is normal. But if you are feeling hopeless, altogether detached and uninterested in life, or persistently sad and/or angry, you may be experiencing postpartum depression, which affects about 10% of new moms. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s all the more important to take good care of yourself. Talk to your doctor and get the help you need.
Eat energy and mood boosting foods.
Keep your body in balance by eating well. Though holidays tend toward high-sugar foods, healthy snacks will do more to see you happily through the season. Try almonds, walnuts, fresh juices, and mood boosting foods such as berries, dark chocolate, and any foods high in omega-3s like fish or whole grains.
Make a (reasonable) to-do list.
Choose 5 or 6 things to accomplish, max. Being prepared for navigating the holidays is half the battle. When you have a plan in place (less is best), those inevitable bouts of stress, frustration, and sadness will be less likely to derail you. Make your list REASONABLE.
Remember, you are not Martha Stewart, and no one’s holiday actually looks like a real-life Pinterest board. Give yourself a pass - to back off, to leave some decorations packed, to be less social, to cry if you need to.
Old Expectations: I can do it all. New Expectations: I can do some things. And what I can’t do, I leave for another day (guilt-free) or get some help.
Know your triggers.
Babies (and you) are affected by stress, so it’s all important to put your well-being and baby’s first. We all have triggers that send us round the bend, and holiday family gatherings can sometimes push every one of them. It’s normal for your emotions and anxieties to be magnified after having a baby. Eliminate as many triggers as you can. You don’t have to go to every party. Pare down your social calendar so that it suits you.
As for stress you can’t eliminate, such as a disagreeable relative, have a strategy ready to nip squabbles in the bud. Instead of saying, “Aunt Edie! Your parenting advice is 30 years out of date,” you might say, “Auntie, isn’t the baby beautiful?” Change the subject gently. Tell jokes. Get people laughing. Turn up the music. There are a number of ways to make an unpleasant situation more pleasant. If things get tough, remove yourself. Changing diapers and feeding the baby never looked so good!
Set up a support system before the holidays are in full swing.
Have someone you can talk to when you start feeling overwhelmed - whether it’s your husband, a friend, or your mom. When I was a new mother, talking to my mom-girlfriends made everything right. They’d already been through it all and gave great advice. They didn’t mind listening to my rants and worries, and chimed in with plenty of laughter and good reasons to be glad.
Focus on your family.
Commercial hype does its best to make us forget this fact, but the truth is, the best part of the holidays isn’t gifts or décor or parties - it’s the chance to focus on your loved ones. If you’re a new mom, you have lots to celebrate on that front.
Set aside time to be with your family. Whether it’s a quiet night in enjoying a movie, sitting around a lit tree, attending a religious service together, or sharing a meal, focusing in on what really matters this year will give you peace and help you to tap into the joy you’re looking for.
Wishing you very happy holidays!
From my family to yours.