I visited my daughter the other day and they were decorating for Christmas. The three year old was singing and dancing around her room while my daughter worked on the tree. The one year old was busy removing every ornament he could reach. The cat was doing it's best to climb the tree (and she succeeded). My daughter was concentrating so intensely on decorating the tree that she didn't see the children's faces. Their eyes were bright with excitement and their little bodies wiggly with happiness. Watching them brought back so many memories of what Christmas was like when our five children were little and how stressful it was at times.
Back in the Day
Our house resembled a three ring circus but the holidays took it to a much higher level. Imagine a circus on fast forward, going ninety miles an hour. That was us. And right in the middle of the tent was me, the ringmaster mom, directing the performers who often didn't perform according to my plan.
I wanted our Christmas's to be a cross between The Waltons and The Brady Bunch. It didn't happen that way. We were more like the Griswold family in Christmas Vacation.
Every holiday without fail one of the children would be sick. Three of our five had bouts of asthma and that meant breathing treatments. If you have never gone to a Christmas dinner with five children, a nebulizer, medicine, and a couple of casseroles, you've never lived.
One year I took a strawberry jello salad and a deer ran out in front of our car. My husband hit the brakes hard and we stopped in time but the jello salad didn't. My son who was about five at the time was holding the salad and when I looked around to see if everyone was okay he was wiping strawberries off his glasses. "Seatbelt worked mom, I'm okay but the salad isn't."
Then there was the Christmas of the underwear tree. Our oldest was about 14 and his younger sister had just started wearing a bra. They got into an argument/fight one night and the next morning when I got up our Christmas tree was decorated with her bras. I thought it was funny but she didn't. She retaliated by getting his boxers and adding them to the tree. It did make a unique conversation piece but it didn't last long. Both of them had to have underwear and I refused to buy more so they had to get them off the tree or go commando. Thankfully, they chose the former.
The underwear escapades happened a long time ago and it's a memory I'll never forget, just like the strawberry jello salad dripping off my son's glasses. If you have children or grandchildren you can almost be certain that something won't go as planned and that if you aren't careful you will get so caught up in the moment you will forget to relax and make the best of it.
One of my personal favorite tips for those unexpected moments is to see the humor in the situation, but not every situation is funny. Here are some tips for those times when laughter won't fix whatever is wrong.
Tips for Surviving
This season can also be overwhelming, stressful and even depressing. Dr. Donovan Wong, a Clinical Director of Doctor on Demand, a Clinical Director of Doctor On Demand's Emotional & Mental Health practice, shares some tips on how to maintain your emotional health during this trying time of year:
1. Limit Your Time. Sometimes less is more. Spending an excessive amount of time with anyone can be difficult and staying with or housing family members during the holidays can add to the stress, especially if the relationship is already difficult.
2. Speak Up - Angry aunt? Nagging mother? Rude brother-in-law? Don't allow them to overwhelm your holiday. Assert yourself and set limits for how you will allow others to treat you. Try to reach a middle ground - even if it's temporary - so you can enjoy time with the rest of the family.
3. Dealing With Loss - This time of year can be especially difficult for those who have lost a loved one. It can feel natural to want to isolate from others. Unfortunately this often has the reverse effect. Make plans with supportive family and friends to get out and enjoy this time of year. It will lighten the mood and be a welcomed distraction.
4. Keep It In Moderation - The holidays also involve celebrating with food and alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant. It may temporarily relieve some stress, but can affect your mental state afterwards. Overeating can act in the same way, causing guilt afterwards. Enjoy it, but remember to keep it all in moderation.
5. Time For A Talk - Professional help from a therapist can be incredibly valuable and insightful, whether that's before, in the midst of or following the holidays. An objective viewpoint and professional advice can help provide you with the tools to make the holidays more peaceful and enjoyable. If you need help, Doctor On Demand has a suite of doctorate-level psychologists available to help you manage your stress, and develop personalized, stress-management strategies, all from the convenience of your own home via your smartphone, tablet or computer.